Grease!, Shubert Theatre.
Last year when this incarnation of Grease came to town–a road clone of the current Broadway show–it was hard not to notice what a sanitized and weirdly ahistorical view of the 50s it presented. The kids, with their jeans and leather jackets and funny hair, looked more or less right. But they performed on a Day-Glo mod set (by John Arnone) packed with references to such 60s artists as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Peter Max. And they danced to orchestrations (by Steve Margoshes) that tarted up Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s rock-and-roll songs, using ratchets, slide whistles, and horns that went wah-wah-wah.
Well, that noisy, messy show is back, anachronisms and all. But this time at least there’s some chemistry between the actors playing the show’s romantic leads (Adrian Zmed and Sutton Foster), so we actually care about the show’s marginal love story–which makes a difference in an essentially plotless show with almost no dramatic tension. Poor, dissipated ex-Monkee Davy Jones, who played DJ Vince Fontaine, has been replaced by a much younger, funnier nonceleb, Nick Santa Maria. And though screechy Sally Struthers is still a terrible ham, she seems to know what she’s doing onstage, and her timing seems better too.