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With ‘Grease,’ Paramount stays hopelessly devoted to quality, fun

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Updated: October 20, 2012 6:14AM

The Paramount Theatre has done it again.

Last year, the venerable Aurora theater took a risk and launched its own in-house Broadway series. Under the guidance of new Executive Director Tim Rater and Artistic Director Jim Corti, the Paramount staged dazzling performances of four well-known musical classics, turning heads and winning praise from area critics.

But the problem with success is that it becomes the benchmark. Last year, the sheer quality of the Paramount’s Broadway series was a surprise. This year, it’s expected.

If Rater and Corti are feeling the pressure, it doesn’t show. Last week, the Paramount kicked off its second Broadway series with a supremely fun production of “Grease,” which maintains the high standard set by last year’s knockout shows.

Most people know “Grease” more as a movie than a stage show. The 1978 film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, was a smash hit. Like the film, the stage performance — written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, and directed for the Paramount by Michael Unger — has little on its mind except entertainment. It’s a celebration of the 1950s in song and dance. And even though things get heavier in the second act, it remains fun from first note to last.

“Grease” tells the story of the Rydell High School Class of 1959 — the greasers, who work on their cars and perfect the art of acting tough, and the “Pink Ladies,” who love them. It’s mainly the story of the romance between Danny and Sandy, played by Skyler Adams and Emma Ritchie, respectively. They both have tremendous voices, and their duet on “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is a standout.

The rest of the ensemble is equally strong, particularly Jessica Kingsdale as the brassy Betty Rizzo — she nails “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” her defiant showcase — and Aurora native Adrian Aguilar as Kenickie. The choreography by Dana Solimando is endlessly entertaining. And the band, led by pianist Michael Keefe, pounds out ’50s rock with joy and verve.

And wait until you see the special guest during “Greased Lightning”: a real ’56 Chevy. It’s impressive.

“Grease” isn’t the meatiest of shows, but if you’re cruising for a good time, this production is a blast.

Andre Salles is a local free-lance writer.

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