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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO CONTRIBUTED PHOTO "Grease" continues weekends through Aug. 23, Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown.

Theater Review: 'Grease' is lightning at Pines Dinner Theatre

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 by DEB BOYLAN Special to The Press in Focus

Teenage romance, peer pressure, mischief and angst have not changed over the decades. The technology may have evolved, hairstyles and fashions may look different, but the issues and concerns so central to a high school student remain the same.

"Grease," weekends through Aug. 23, Pines Dinner Theatre, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown, will whisk audiences back to the year 1959 as we take a glimpse into the lives of a group of working-class teens during the course of a school year at the fictional Rydell High.

Prim and proper English teacher Miss Lynch (Amber Blatt) has a tough time keeping the gang of "Greasers," also known as the Burger Palace Boys, and their female counterparts, the Pink Ladies, in line.

There's a new girl in school, wholesome and sweet Sandy Dumbrowski (Caroline Rose Davis), who reflects back on her summer romance with Danny Zuko (Conor Schultz), the leader of the Burger Palace Boys, via the song "Summer Nights."

Unbeknownst to Sandy, Danny attends Rydell and while he is initially excited to see her, he quickly realizes he needs to act aloof in front of his buddies, rebukes her and goes off with the gang.

"Grease," with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is a fun, lighthearted examination of a group of friends. Pines Dinner Theatre does a masterful job working with the largest cast to grace their stage in some time.

The choreography (Amber Blatt and Beverly Blatt) is outstanding and really shines during numbers "We Go Together," "Shakin' At The High School Hop" and "Born To Hand-Jive," when the entire cast is onstage. The large-scale dance numbers never feel crowded and the timing is on point throughout.

The players are expertly cast for their roles personifying 1950s teens. There are the Pink Ladies, led by tough-talking Rizzo (Kelly McAndrews), "Beauty School Dropout" Frenchy (Meg Stephanowicz), sweet and enthusiastic Jan (Katelyn Morgan) and worldly Marty (Samantha Prentice).

Every high school has teacher's pets and at Rydell they are none other than head cheerleader Patty (Seana Benz) and nerdy little Eugene (Michael Guerriere), who is often the target of the Burger Boys' bullying.

The Burger Palace Boys always travel as a pack and include co-leader and steady boyfriend of Rizzo, Kenickie (Tyler Fernandez), who takes great pride in earning enough money to buy his "Greased Lightning" hot rod.

Whether stealing hubcaps or rumbling with rival gangs, the remaining members of the Burger Palace Boys include guitar-playing Doody (Dylan Rex), Roger, aka "Rump" (Patrick Davis), so named for his habit of "mooning" people, and self-professed lady-killer and smart aleck Sonny (Matthew Gurniak).

Major plot points include a possible pregnancy, budding romance between members of the Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies, a dance contest judged by smooth-talking radio DJ Vince Fontaine (Parker Blackston Ryan), prom night and whether or not Frenchy will heed the advice of Teen Angel (Jonny Rouse). Rouse appears in dual roles as Teen Angel and rock 'n' roller Johnny Casino. As Teen Angel, he hits some extended high notes to the delight of the audience.

Also making an appearance at the dance contest is the "best dancer at St. Bernadette's," a firecracker of a girl, Cha-Cha (Gabrielle Petrosino), who is certainly not shy.

Finally, there is the transformation of Sandy at the end of Act Two from her wholesome persona into a full-fledged Pink Lady.

Music accompaniment is provided by Oliver Blatt, piano (sitting in for Music Director Stacy Bechtel on the performance review date); John Christie, guitar, and Steven Crammer, drums.

Director, lighting and set design is by Oliver Blatt. Set pieces were wheeled on and off the stage as needed and are minimal to allow room for the song and dance numbers.

Costume Supervisor Stacey B. Yoder outfits the characters in authentic '50s garb, including wait staff, who look like classic soda jerks. Sound and light operator is Richard Gensiak. Special effects include strobe lighting and theatrical smoke.

"Grease," as presented by the Pines Dinner Theatre, is fast-paced and fun. You will grow attached to this loveable and good-natured crew. When they sing in harmony "We'll always be together" from the reprise of "We Go Together," to end the show, you will leave hoping that, in fact, they will.