Opinion — Review of NMU Theatre and Dance’s production of “Grease”

Harry Stine

I went to “Grease” on Saturday, April 22, and even though it was the production’s last showing of the season, it was far from low energy.

I had the privilege of sitting in the center of the front row at the performance, and I could take a peek into the orchestra pit at any given time to see an excellent group of musicians performing the many hits of the production at full force. Before the show started and during intermissions there were a few brief, but enjoyable, jams from the guitarist and bassist as well. From a live music perspective, “Grease” brought a lot to enjoy.

There was a lot of fun to be had with the performances as well. The entire cast perfectly balanced humor and song, with some strong physical comedy on top of that. I thought the members of the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys were excellent at displaying their characters personalities throughout every musical number. The Pink Ladies danced a little differently than the Burger Palace Boys, but they still didn’t all dance the same, and each member of the two groups showed their character through facial expressions and the way they carried themselves during the dances. Even if some of the names got a little tough to follow at times, I still knew who each was and how they would act based on the way each actor handled the role.

Annabelle Lesser took on the role of Sandy, the new kid at Rydell High, who navigates the social structure of the Pink Ladies and their interactions with the Burger Palace Boys all while balancing the will-they/won’t-they love story with the boys’ leader, Danny Zuko. Similar to Sandy, this is Lesser’s first role at Northern, who recently came here from New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Lesser handled the role very well and worked some good dramatic moments into an overall very lighthearted and high-energy performance.

I was a big fan of how the production managed to fit some dramatic beats into the show. Director Paul Truckey and the rest of the creative crew deserve as much credit for that as the actors. I watched the movie adaptation of “Grease” quite a bit in middle school, but the only serious part that worked for me was everything with Rizzo. Everything else felt a little too predictable. Here, the conflict between Sandy and Danny felt like conflict, and I even had fun with the “Beauty School Dropout” song, which I always skipped in the movie.

Again, the crew deserves a hand here. Sets were rotated in and out at excellent pace, and the multimedia production minor in me couldn’t help but applaud the way they balanced all of the audio elements. On top of that, none of the costumes looked cheap or out of place, and none of the microphones were too obvious or distracting.

I’ve seen a lot more of the serious plays put on by NMU Theatre and Dance, and I’ve enjoyed them, but this was an excellent change of pace. The department has once again displayed the range and ability of its students, and I’m excited to see what comes next.