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Review: Totem Pole's Grease 'energetic, raucous'

It may not be common to start a review of a musical theater performance with comments about the band, but here goes: Danny Server, musical director and keyboardist at Totem Pole Playhouse rocked the house during opening night of "Grease," which likely was one of the reasons the end of the last scene saw the entire, packed house on its feet.

But not the only reason. The energy produced by Totem Pole's version of this raucous, funny and sometimes heart-rending nod to the music and social upheavals of the 1950s could have run Chambersburg's electrical grid for a whole day.

Though associated with early Rock and Doo-Wop music, Grease is no lightweight entertainment. It deals with the issues of friendship, love, teenage rebellion, sexuality and, to some degree, class consciousness. Fortunately, the music, lyrics and acting of the production do a great job of preventing the show from being a documentary about troubled youth.

Does it ever. Highlights are "Greased Lightnin'," about Kenickie's "new" hot rod, a barely viable early 50s Plymouth but an emblem of America's love affair with anything with wheels; the more-than-lively "Born to Hand Jive;" and Sandy's "Hopelessly Devoted to You," which was a big hit for Olivia Newton-John, who portrayed Sandy in the 1978 film opposite John Travolta.

The play first appeared in 1971, and has appeared in a number of versions, as the original, which first played in Chicago, was thought too raunchy for some audiences. The Totem Pole edition kept some of the rawness, but not enough to be uncomfortable for local audiences.

When Grease closed on Broadway in 1980, it was after nearly 4,000 performances. It went on to become a hit on London's West End, a very successful film, two popular Broadway revivals in 1994 and 2007, and is always popping up in community, regional and summer stock theaters and in schools.

Sources report that it remains Broadway's 15th longest-running show.

Space won't allow comments on all the cast, all of whom deserve mention. Hannah "Zazzo" Zazzaro will steam your spectacles and break your heart as Betty Rizzo; you will fall in love with Megan Campanile as Sandy Dumbrowski, and Alexander Aguilar comes across with a real masculine presence that Travolta could not manage in a million years.

Grease is running through Aug. 16. Unless you are one of those people who pretend they can't stand early Rock and Roll, not to mention great singing and dancing, you really owe it to yourself to check this one out.

For information on show times and all that, check out online or call them at 717-352-2164.