Theatre Review: ‘Grease’ at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore

The cast of ‘Grease’ at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore. Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.

Summer is almost over and so is the Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore’s production of Grease.  But don’t worry, you still have three more weekends to catch all the sha-na-na’s, doo-bop’s, and rama-lama-ding-dong’s!

The summer has just ended and class is back in session at Rydell High circa 1958.  But who has time to study books when there are so many other more important things to do?  Rizzo (Tina Marie DeSimone), the rough and tough leader of the Pink Ladies, a group of girls that defined cool, is busy organizing slumber parties with Jan (Celia Blitzer) who loves lunch time, Frenchy (Emily Lentz) who dreams of becoming a beautician, and Marty (Shayla Simmons) the “beauty” of the Pink Ladies.  Their newest member-in-training, Sandy (Lara Zinn) has a lot to learn if she is going to be cool like the rest of the Pink Ladies.

Danny (Tim Rogan) and Sandy (Lara Zinn). Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.

While the ladies are painting their toe nails, the men are greasing their hair.  Danny (Tim Rogan), is the cool and good looking leader of the Burger Palace Boys (T-Birds in the movie version): Kenicke (Peter N. Crews) a greaser who is second in command, Doody (Chris Rudy) who plays the guitar and looks up to the other guys since he is the youngest, Sonny (Matt Greefield) a wannabe tough guy, and Roger (Britt Lewis) the class clown.

What would high school be without romance? There are plenty of couples who fall in and out of love in the play, but it is the unlikely pair, Danny and Sandy that the audience will fall in love with the most.  And what’s not to love?  Tim Rogan as Danny is handsome, cool, and strong, while Lara Zinn as Sandy is sweet, wholesome, naïve, and looks like the girl next door.  What is more, when you put them together summer lovin’ is truly in the air.

Toby’s sizzling production of ‘Grease’ sets the stage on fire. Be there or be square!

Director and choreographer Tina Marie DeSimone does a fine job at bringing to life 50’s style musical numbers such as “Summer Nights,” “We Go Together,” and “You’re The One That I Want.”

Kelli Blackwell as Teen Angel. Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.

The beginning of Act II really gets the audience stomping their feet and clapping their hands during the song “Shakin’ at the High School Hop.”  Vince Fontaine (David Bosley-Reynolds), a radio disc jockey, is hosting the school dance as Johnny Casino (Scean A. Flowers) is “Born to Hand-Jive.”  These two numbers also really showcase the ensemble which is clearly having just as much fun as the audience.

While the play is mainly a fun 50’s teen rock and roll musical, a few mature topics are briefly covered like teen pregnancy, smoking, and drinking.

Luckily, a Teen Angel (Kelli Blackwell) is sent from above to try and save at least one girl (Frenchy) from being a “Beauty School Dropout.”  With her strong voice and stage presence, Kelli Blackwell gives a powerful performance as Teen Angel. The cast, dressed in gospel choir clothing added to this rousing number which practically stopped the show.

Toby’s sizzling production of Grease sets the stage on fire. Be there or be square!

Grease runs through Sept. 9 at Toby’s Baltimore Dinner Theatre, located in the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, 5625 O’Donnell Street in Baltimore. Call 410-649-1660 or go online.