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Tuesday, March 5

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« A Look Behind soarinbird studios Review: A Lesson Before Dying @ Lincoln Square Theatre »

Theater Wed May 11 2011

Review: The Original Grease @ ATC


L to R: Carol Rose, Tony Clarno, Jessica Diaz, Robert Colletti, Kelly Davis Wilson, Adrian Aguilar,
and Tyler Ravelson in The Original Grease at the American Theater Co.

In 1970, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey wrote a play about teenagers based on their own high school experience at Taft High School in Chicago. It ran at the Kingston Mines Theatre Company for what was supposed to be one weekend in January of 1971, turned into eight months, got enough notice to get produced on Broadway, and became the 1978 film Grease, starring a 24 year-old John Travolta and 30 year-old Olivia Newton-John as Hollywood's best-known teenage couple. When Grease moved to the silver screen, it became a different story; all of the Chicago references were removed, along with any cursing, and even entire songs, rendering what was once a celebration of working-class adolescence into cartoonish nostalgia.

In the intervening years, the play has been produced innumerable times, but this is the first time that the original script and score have been performed, which is reason enough to go see it. It took me a while to get the film cast out of my expectations (I couldn't help it, I've watched that movie so many times I can recite entire scenes from it. [And in an unnecessary side note - as a child I didn't understand what the lyrics "can't go to bed 'till I'm legally wed" meant, and was very concerned that Sandy wasn't getting enough sleep]). Once the play began, however, it was easy for those silver-screen ghosts to make way for the live action unfolding in the small but expertly used space at the American Theater Company.

Adrian Aguilar and Kelly Davis Wilson star as the improbable high school sweethearts Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbroski, with a strong supporting cast that includes Tony Clarno as Kenickie, and Jessica Diaz as Rizzo. For the most part the storyline was familiar, only with a lot more sexually explicit language, references to Chicago locales, and a few scenes that were added to acknowledge the fact that 1959 was over 60 years ago (the start of the show is a 60 year high school reunion).

The Original Grease brings the well-worn, glossy screen version back to its Chicago roots, and is an entertaining and satisfying production. Show runs Wednesdays through Sundays through June 26. Tickets can be purchased online, at the ATC box office (1909 W. Byron), or by calling 773-409-4125.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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