After a year-long silence, the Okoboji Summer Theatre stage came back to life in full force Tuesday with the opening of “Grease.” What a spectacular beginning to what promises to be a stellar summer stock season!
The sold-out opening night audience gave the actors and crew a standing ovation to welcome them back after missing the 2020 season due to the pandemic.
The set was colorful and unique. It was nice to be able to see the band instead of hiding the musicians backstage. Kudos to set designer Gretchen Ugalde. The costumes by Ashley Harrison and her assistant Makayla Rice were colorful and so appropriate to the time.
Normally I point out the best performances in my critique, but everyone was at the top of their game and no one performer outshone the others. Rayner Case played Sandy Dumbroski. She has a beautiful voice that is not as powerful as some of the rest of the cast; in part because she was portraying a shy high schooler. She was a joy to watch and hear.
I can understand why director/choreographer Stephen Brotebeck chose Tyler Okunski to play Danny Zuko. He has the right body build and sex appeal needed to pull off the famous John Travolta role. He sings and dances with ease and style.
Tanner Schwartz was highly amusing as Vince Fontaine and Kyle Munson was hilarious as Sonny. All the guys in the cast had strong, beautiful voices and danced extremely well. The same can be said for the gals.
Bravo to Brotebeck on his choreography of the show. The stage is really small for a cast of a dozen or more dancers constantly moving around. He was able to get the cast dancing with gusto and skill in limited space. The choreography and strong talent, along with the costumes and set, made this show one of the best in years.
I want audiences this week to listen carefully. Some of the innuendos in the dialogue are very humorous. I also thought naming the drive-in movie theater after the Superior 71 Drive-In was so appropriate.
I feel the need to point out a flaw. Bethany Merkle has a strong, gorgeous voice and moves with grace and style. She played Rizzo extremely well. However her tattoos made her skill moot since they detracted from the time frame of the musical. I hope they can find some extreme makeup to cover those tattoos up so her character can go back to the early ‘60s and not look like a 2020 biker babe. All young people desiring to pursue a career in acting should remember that they will be asked to play characters from several centuries, so they should protect their bodies from such defining markings.
The talented musicians were led by Tom Andes, who has done the musical direction for several years. He had Greg Forney, Chris Oyler, Dalton Peterson and James Kunz on stage with him, and they did a wonderful job of keeping this fast-paced musical moving right along. The band also looked first class in their second half white tails. The tuxedos and shiny silver bow ties were perfect.
Bravo to everyone involved on stage and behind the scenes! It was a perfect start, and the audience is anticipating each of the five remaining shows with pleasure. “Grease” continues through Sunday night. I believe I heard the rest of the week is sold out. Call the box office if you have any questions at 712-332-7773.
“Weekend Comedy” is the next production beginning on July 13.