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THEATER REVIEW 'GREASE' : Memory Lapse : The musical evokes nostalgia for the '50s as they never were.

June 27, 1991|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Those who have only seen the 1978 film adapted from Jim Jacobs' and Warren Casey's 1971 Broadway musical "Grease" should be warned that you won't hear some of the movie's more popular songs in the stage version.

Several of the hit singles--including Frankie Valli's title number, Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and the Newton-John/John Travolta duet "You're the One That I Want"--were written by other composers especially for the screen version. And they are stronger than most of the Casey-Jacobs originals.

But the stage show is considerable fun, well-acted and imaginatively staged in a Cabrillo Music Theatre revival that concludes its run this weekend.

Director Sean Moran acted in both the film and in revival companies of the musical. He has assembled a lively and attractive cast, though one whose average age probably exceeds that of the high school students they're playing by several years.

Set in 1959, the show tells the story of ingenuous Sandy Dumbrowski, too shy to try out for the cheerleading squad, and Danny Zuko, the too-cool natural leader of students who major in auto shop and minor in pomade.

The surrounding company includes Zuko's acolytes and a group of girls called the Pink Ladies (gum-chewers who could hide copies of Photoplay in their beehive hairdos), plus a couple of socially responsible students and a few token adults.

It's nostalgia for the '50s as they never quite were, in the vein of "Happy Days," and it's not above an anachronism to make a joke: "Do you know 'Tell Laura I Love Her?' " someone asks an aspiring musician. He isn't sure, but it's unlikely--the record wouldn't be out for more than a year. And while Maura Peterson's choreography is fine, the song she had to stage as a stroll is unsuitable for that late-'50s dance. "Born to Hand Jive," though, is much more authentic.

Jennifer Beall and Gabriel Arciniega star as Sandy and Danny. With Arciniega's looks and voice, he might have made it as a rock 'n' roll singer in the early '60s. And Beall is one of those angelic, all-American ingenues so often featured at the Moorpark Melodrama, where she has worked.

The supporting cast is uniformly capable, with Jennifer Hyden and Christopher Mastrovito meriting special mention. Hyden performs a standout dance routine and a duet with Beall of "It's Raining on Prom Night." And Mastrovito, as a pint-sized angel, steals every scene he's in.

Musical accompaniment is provided by a five-piece combo under the direction of Ilana Eden.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"Grease" concludes this weekend at the Dorill B. Wright Cultural Center, 575 Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme. Performances are at 8 p.m. today through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday. Tickets are $17, with a $2 discount for seniors, students or members of the military. For reservations or information, call 483-8859.

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