The original Grease! was an amusingly sardonic exploration of the melodramatic world of teenage romance.
The Broadway series production of Grease! at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this week tries to remain true to this representation, while adding a few humorous commentaries of its own. The production features some creative sets, especially with designer John Arnone's fanciful contrivance of the rust bucket Greased Lightnin' and the surreal aura of Marty's bathroom.
Stars Joe Piscopo and Mackenzie Phillips give some engaging performances.
However, that wasn't enough to overcome a basic problem with the opening-night production: It was tedious and lacked the magic you'd expect from a Broadway show.
Piscopo, portraying DJ Vince Fontaine, effectively moved the show's pace along when its tempo began to lull. Grease! could have used everything short of greased lightning to pep up key scenes, such as the duet Mooning with Roger and Jan, and Sandy crooning Since I Don't Have You.
Beauty School Dropout proved an exception, as "Teen Angel" Terron Brooks' soulful singing and kooky asides carried the otherwise anticlimactic scene.
Like Piscopo and Brooks, Marilyn Cooper's quirky portrayal of Miss Lynch rescued the high-school dance segment and its washed-out rendition of It's Raining on Prom Night.
As Sandy Dumbrowski, Ali McLennan's performance of the song was muted and lacked luster.
So was the love affair between McLennan's character and Danny Zuko (played by Adrian Zmed.) The less-than-cool Zmed was less than convincing as the ultra-hip Zuko.
Phillips, on the other hand, turned in a top-notch performance as Betty Rizzo. Her projection was a welcome addition to the show.
Grease! _ Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Through Sunday. Curtain: 8 p.m. Today.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Tickets: $29.50-$47.50.