Grease | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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GREASE, at the Shubert Theatre. It makes perfect sense that the best song in this overacted, overproduced, relentlessly insincere revival of what was once a sweet, charming, if shallow and silly musical is an actual tune from the 50s, "Since I Don't Have You." From the first moment of the show, when Sally Struthers screeches from the back of the house, then waddles, muttering, up to the stage in her cat's-eye glasses, hair piled high, it's obvious that no one involved with this production had any faith in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's original material. Director Jeff Calhoun and company have tarted up the show with every 50s cliche in the book. (By comparison Happy Days is a documentary.)

For the most part the acting is either pathetically inhibited--Trisha M. Gorman's good girl is so mousy she practically disappears even when she's onstage alone--or annoyingly broad (see Lawson Harris's racist hot-Latina Cha-Cha Digregorio). There are a few lights in the darkness, however. Thanks to Angela Pupello's adept comic acting, the archetypal bad girl Rizzo is the most likable person in the show. And Kevin-Anthony as Teen Angel does such a rousing rendition of "Beauty School Dropout"--complete with an insanely high pompadour and glittering gold outfit--that we were all transported, for a few minutes anyway.

Then the number ended and we returned to shtickland, where old stars and stale ideas--like Ed Debevic-esque 50s nostalgia--go to die.

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