Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Nights

The production of Grease playing at the American Theatre Company is being billed as the original version of Grease coming home to the city that started it all and in a lot of ways it's different then the original production of Grease that played on Broadway in the 70's and became for a time the longest running show in Broadway history but it's vastly different then the Grease that we know from the film, reality television series, and countless revivals.This is a much raunchier version that doesn't hesitate in portraying teenage kids in the 50's and is directed more to a Chicago audience then ever before, well at least for 40 years. It's not a surprise since the show was created by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey in 1971 and like many an out of town tryout show had to become Broadway friendly and be able to play to a wider audience. That audience seemed to be expanded with various productions of the show and each time seemed to be stretching the heart of the show. At first you had the original Broadway production that featured such soon to be film and Broadway stars like Barry Bostwick, Adrienne Barbeau, Richard Gere, Patrick Swayze, Judy Kaye, Marilu Henner, and John Travolta during the run. The Broadway Production would run 3, 388 performances only to then be knocked out by “A Chorus Line” as the longest running show in Broadway history for a time. In a rarity for that time Hollywood came a calling and producer Alan Carr added the sounds of the 70's and a 30 something (if not older) cast to play teenagers not to mention a hit Australian recording artist to star in the mega hit movie and the movie was a huge hit. In 1994 a n over the top brightly revival came back to Broadway hosting another group of “stars,” this time not even bothering to make them look like teenagers but hammering home the concept of stunt casting with the likes of Rosie O'Donnell, Megan Mullally, Rex Smith, Brooke Shields, Adrian Zmed, Debbie Gibson, Jasmine Guy, and Linda Blair playing members of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies.

After 40 years the show comes back to Chicago in many different ways. Besides some of the classics you know they've added additional songs and changed some of the ones you could sing in your sleep. One of the most famous songs “Summer Nights'” lyrics have been replaced and the title changed to “Foster Beach.” They've also added location specific references that hit here but would probably be lost outside of Chicago. It's also nice to see a cast that looks closer to the age of their characters then many other productions. Another interesting concept in this newer production is having the senior citizen versions of some of the Rydell High's most colorful characters incorporated into the show.

After all these years American Theatre Company has found a way to shock you with a little show called Grease but once the initial show is over with you'll find yourself surrounded by old friends and feeling like you back at home sweet home.

Playing from April 21st though June 26th though most of the run is already sold out for ticket information call 773-409-4125.

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