GREASE, Drury Lane Oakbrook. Unlike the overproduced, celebrity-studded Broadway touring version that regularly plays Chicago, Ray Frewen's revival restores the very unchic source of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's blast from the past--an actual Chicago high school. Kurt Sharp's set frames the stage with blowups of yearbook photos circa 1957, the "Greased Lightnin'" jalopy is a souped-up golf cart with Thunderbird pretensions, and the Burger Palace is checkered tile.
This Grease is refreshing simply because it's real. (Significantly, the production's only letdown is the fantasy sequence "Beauty School Dropout.") And here Sandy and Danny's on-and-off romance never dominates--it's part of a class photo developed in loving detail, including such coming-of-age rituals as slumber parties, sock hops, drive-ins, and pep rallies.
As the awkward sweethearts, Raegan Kotz and Daren Dusenske play a mating game that easily bubbles over into the hand jive, hully-gully, slop, or stroll (evocatively re-created by Marci Caliendo). Terrific character work suggests the reality underlying high school stereotypes, which are reinvented year after year: Patrick Gagnon's geeky techie, Renee Matthews's square but game English teacher, Angela Berra's failed beautician, and Rob Rahn's horny deejay. Tammy Mader's hard-boiled Rizzo, the musical's most original character, is ten times more complex than her nemesis, Sandra Dee. Rizzo's declaration of independence--"There Are Worse Things I Could Do"--speaks volumes about good people who make bad choices.