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Grease at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre

Grease is playing at The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres now through October 28th. The ever popular musical, a favorite of High School drama clubs everywhere, is brought to life with a huge amount of fun energy at the Chanhassen.

At this point before I go on I find it necessary to talk for a bit about the show Grease separate from the Chanhassen's production of it. The show, whose first production was seen in 1971, is popular for a reason, but is not without fault. Watching it I couldn't help but think that the show, like many other older musicals could use a new script. The dialogue is filled with fat jokes (to which the laughter that followed in the audience was almost as troubling as the jokes themselves), rape jokes, and gay being used as an insult. I realize of course that this show takes place in 1959, but I felt that many of the jokes existence detracted from my ability to be able to enjoy the show.

I went into the show expecting to be critical of the end of the story, a girl changing herself to get the guy, but that is not the way I felt at all. It has been quite a while since I've seen Grease, and it is very different seeing the show as a 25 year old than as a 15 year old. The story is so much more clearly about the confusion and awkwardness of High School. Everyone is trying to fit in, figure out how to be their own person and who that person is supposed to be. And Grease, and in particular Chanhassen's production, was very good at telling that particular story.

The songs in Grease are so well known, even to those unfamiliar with the show, such its place in our popular culture. And the Chanhassen's cast is filled with fantastic voices to perform them, but what was the most impressive and vital to the success was the cohesion of the cast. The amount of energy on the stage and radiated through the entire dining room.

But I will admit it, I had some favorites. Ban Bakken as Kenickie brought heart to the bad boy, and rocked "Greased Lightin". Kasano Mwanza brought the house down as Teen Angel. Aleks Knezevich was a great Danny, it was easy for the audience to root for him, but after hearing his vocal chops in full force at Musical Mondays last month I couldn't help but feel that the show and the role held him back. Finally Ruthanne Hayward as Rizzo sung my favorite song of the show, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" beautifully, and full of heart in such a way that made me see the whole end of the musical and Sandy's transition differently.

Grease is not without it's faults, but Chanhassen's production is overflowing with energy, and made me look at the show in a way I hadn't before. It can be seen until October 28th, so if on one of these upcoming Summer Nights you are looking for an escape I recommend you take in dinner and a show in Chanhassen.

*Photo by Dan Norman

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