You're the one that I want, Marc Robin, if I'm ever looking for a director/choreographer to stage a '50s musical comedy that features poodle skirts, leather jackets, souped-up hot rods and singing and dancing high school kids in the throes of young love. The master of Chicago musicals has done it again in this highly energetic show that shakes and hand jives all over the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre stage, as well as up and down the aisles, much to the delight of audiences.
The story of sweet, innocent teenager, Sandy Dumbrowski, new student at Rydell High School, and her on again/off again romance with greaser Danny Zuko is as familiar to audiences as the songs they sing to express their desires and disappointments. Set in 1957 at a fictitious Chicago high school and peopled by stock characters out of every teenage B-movie of the period, audiences will feel right at home.
This is truly an ensemble cast, but it's the ladies who really stand out in this production. As Sandy, actress Megan Nicole Arnoldy sparkles and sizzles as the "scared and unsure" teenager who grows into a confident young woman by the finale. Her strong vocals, especially in "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," as well as her terrific talent as a dancer in the high school hop scene, make this young lady the star of this version.
Tammy Mader brings a strength that masks her vulnerability as Rizzo, the bad-girl leader of the Pink Ladies, and she belts out "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" with the tough authority needed. It's the best I've ever heard this song performed. One of my favorite new Chicago performers, Brandy McClendon, plays Frenchy, whose talents lie within the hair dyes of beauty school, for all the comedy and sorrow as possible. Mention must be made of lovely Paula Scorfano's hilarious turn as teacher Miss Lynch; one of the evening's highlights is Ms. Scorfano's tipsy attempt at fitting in with the kids at the high school dance.
Thomas M. Ryan has created a sparse but colorfully effective set that features flickering jukeboxes, bowling alley and car dealer marquees, all scattered on top of a neon-lit musical staff that appears to float over the Marriott stage.
The decision to include many of the popular film's songs is a good one. In addition to those already mentioned, "All Shook Up" is replaced by "You're the One That I Want," a number that audiences delight in hearing, and Matthew Hydzik's nicely sung rendition of "Sandy" successfully replaces the stage version's "Alone at the Drive-in Movie."
All-in-all, this capable cast, led by talented director Marc Robin is doing some "Shakin' at the High School Hop" that's a lot of fun for everyone.
Through April 22 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire; (847) 634-0200. Tickets cost $42-45; shows at 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday.