In 1971 the original production of "Grease" was performed right here in Chicago at what was the Kingston Mines Theatre, located in an old trolley barn in a Lincoln Park neighborhood. We all know what happened from there. Broadway made it a sensation and Hollywood made it one of the most famous movies in history. After all, who doesn’t know a song or two from "Grease"? Now, 40 years after it first hit the stage, "The Original Grease" returns to the city in which it was based, bringing its slicked back hair and leather jackets to the American Theatre Company.
Though the story line is basically the same as the familiar Hollywood version, the original production is much raunchier, proudly taking on an R-rating, making "fuck" the word of the night. Much of its humor is crude, but positively funny, and sexual innuendo is found at the right moment with great consistency.
"The Original Grease" takes the audience to the 50th reunion of Rydell High (loosely based on Taft High School) - the class of 1960. We are taken back in time for a stroll down memory lane by the aged alumni to witness the time of their youth firsthand. Though the high school name is fictional, the play takes place in Chicago’s Northwest Side in which many references are made to nostalgic city locations such as Foster Beach, Polk Bros and Carson’s. Director PJ Paparelli and co-creator of "Grease", Jim Jacobs, do a terrific job in reconstructing the pop culture giant, making it more specific to Chicago as it was originally intended to be. The era is beautifully depicted through thoughtful costume design, hairstyles and the good use of period slang and phrases. Captured also, so brilliantly in this production, is the youthful rebellion - and innocence - of the iconic era.
The play’s cast is as energetic as they are talented. The dancing is fun and there is no shortage of catchy songs. The show also includes new songs made specifically for this production "how Big I’m Gonna Be", "Tattoo Song" and "Comin’ at Ya". But worry not, while "Foster Beach", the original version of "Summer Nights" is played, classics like "Greased Lighting", "Beauty School Drop Out" and "Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee" are also heard.
Adrian Aguilar and Jessica Diaz brightly shine in the leading roles of "Danny Zuko" and "Rizzo" nailing both characters to perfection, while also getting a major boost from the incredibly strong supporting cast including stand out performances by Patrick De Nicola "Sonny", Tony Clarno "Kenickie", Sadieh Rifai "Jan" and Jessie Fisher "Frenchy". Great casting here, as it was easy to believe the tight bonds of friendship that existed amongst this group of friends.
"The Original Grease" should be seen by all "Grease" enthusiasts and would also be fully enjoyed by those who had never seen the live production or film. Playing through June 26th at the American Theatre Company, "The Original Grease" returns to its Chicago origin triumphantly. For tickets or more information, visit wwwACTWEB.org or call 773-409-4125.