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Kiki Maples as Sandy and Ed Benjamin III as Danny (foreground) perform a scene with the cast in The Community Players' production of "Grease." (Photo by Robert Emerson)

PAWTUCKET - The Community Players have opened their 95th season with a rocking presentation of a classic "Grease."

The show starts out with the Rydell High School chorus singing the alma mater, led by English teacher Miss Lynch, played by a snarky Sonja Joyner. (Her outstanding improv skills were needed on opening night last weekend, covering a missed cue. Bravo, Sonja!)

Then it travels back to the first day of school in 1959. The Pink Ladies are trading sarcastic quips in the cafeteria and the greasers are posing on the school stairs. Personalities unfold as all discuss what they did last summer.

The popular tune "Summer Nights" ends in a spot-on, well-rehearsed duet between Danny Zuko, played by Ed Benjamin III of Cumberland, and Sandy Dumbrowski, portrayed by Kiki Maples of Pawtucket.

You remember Zuko, greaser par excellence? Benjamin has him down pat with the help of a wig along with the prerequisite leather jacket and white T-shirt.

In Act 2, he rivals "Dancing with the Stars" moves as his character wins the Hand Jive Dance Contest in a pink dress shirt. Later, he shines again in "Alone at a Drive-in Movie" as his powerhouse voice belts out the angst-filled ballad.

As Sandy, the sweet new girl in town, Maples' costume is pure '50s: poodle skirt, cinch belt, saddle shoes and white bobby sox. In the final scene, her look shifts to skin-tight, low-cut black, and Maples manages the transition well.

Doody, the youngest of the greasers, is played by Chris Margodonna of Warwick, who gives a powerful, strong rendition of "Those Magic Changes" early in Act 1. It's so well done it's worth the price of admission by itself.

Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies, is played by Bethany Giammarco of Warwick. She mocks Sandy in a bold, brash and steamy "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" in Act 1. By Act 2, her story takes a turn. She's not sarcastic but angry, yet sure of her values in "There Are Worse Things I Could Do."

Michael Maio of Seekonk is a standout as the Teen Angel in "Beauty School Dropout" in Act 2. The wig and white tails make the day and help his transition from emcee Johnny Caino in the previous scene. Also integral to the scene is the character of Frenchy, the dropout, played by Aubrie Bagdasarian of Bellingham. Her wig is very cute and so are her facial expressions.

The ensemble work, dance scenes, and choreography are especially well done in "Greased Lightnin'" and "Shakin' at the High School Hop." Overall, the strong cast and musicians deliver an energetic and enjoyable evening of entertainment in this production.

***

"Grease" runs through Oct. 25 at Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division St., Pawtucket. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, visit www.thecommunityplayers.org or call 401-726-6860.

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