Theater Review Blog

by Pim van Amerongen, March 2021

Review: GREASE!

Harmony of the Seas

 
 

For years, Royal Caribbean Cruises has been putting out ships with high quality entertainment, and they are always looking to get better.  I went on many family cruises as a kid, and I was always in awe of RCI’s Vegas and Broadway style shows onboard.  The singers, dancers, flashy costumes, and cool sets always put a smile on my face, and fueled my passion to become a professional performer.   As the owner of a cruise entertainment trio, I have followed the industry very closely.  Now whenever I sail with Royal Caribbean, I make a point to see every show onboard.  Sadly, my last cruise ship vacation was a while ago, but I vividly remember one show from that trip.  And what a better time to start a review column, than during coronavirus? So, without further ado, here is my review for the production of GREASE onboard the Harmony Of The Seas in June 2017.

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Everyone knows the story of GREASE.  Danny meets Sandy, they fall in love, Danny betrays Sandy because he’s macho, Sandy changes herself to fulfill his needs, Danny and Sandy live happily ever after.  But we cannot forget what makes this show so fun.  Lets be honest, it isn’t Danny or Sandy, its the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds.  In order to make this a successful musical, it needs to have the funny and twisted backbone of a talented supporting cast.  The music is already a home run, and the script is very solid, so as long as you have the right team to execute the rest, you’re golden.

 

When I saw Grease on Harmony of the Seas, I expected a few things.  A slightly shorter version of the show, really great production value, and a great group of dancers.  I have never seen a show onboard an RCI ship without these three things.  I must say, I have seen a few bad singers or actors along the way, but the shows usually tick those three boxes.  To my pleasant surprise, this cast had amazing singers, actors, and dancers. They had it all!

 

As soon as the show started, I knew I was going to enjoy myself.  The choreography was exciting and fun, the dancers were wonderful, the singers were awesome, and I was happy with how they had seamlessly trimmed the script down.  I never missed any important plot points or fun jokes.  The casting for the show was well done, too.  The girl playing Sandy (Emily Griffiths) was a perfect fit for the role, and the audience loved her rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted To You”.  Joe Giacone, who played Danny, gave a stellar performance, and brought just the right amount of Travolta swagger to the role.  I was also very surprised to find out he was British! I never would have known from his portrayal of Danny.  Another loving duo in the cast was Jan and Roger, played by Leigh Jacobson and Trey Harrington.  I love these two characters in the show, and Roger’s song is one of my favorites.  Leigh gave a funny and quirky performance, and Trey wowed the audience with his hysterical version of “Mooning”.

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Lastly, I have to mention the actress who played Rizzo.  Sarah Drake played this difficult role with ease and poise that was a level above the rest.  I was completely enamored with her, because of the depth she brought to the character.  I had never looked at Rizzo as a complex character.  To me, she is kinda one of the villains in the show, and thats it.  But Sarah Drake make me think again. I saw a tortured girl in love, afraid of failing, and struggling to get through high school with her head held high.  When she sang the infamous “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, I was watching a broadway performance.  The entire cast blew me away, but most notably it was Sarah Drake as Rizzo.  She was clearly the highlight of this production.

Grease was an amazing production at sea, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves live entertainment.  All in all, I am impressed with how much RCI has stepped up their theater game.  The ships with the Broadway productions are sure to please any audience who stops by for a show after dinner.  I know I was floored by their work.

Review: There Will Be Light

An International Fundraiser & Concert

by Pim van Amerongen, May 2021

Let’s face it, COVID has been rough, and I know many of us have been missing live theatre.  I have found myself watching broadway on youtube, online play readings, and zoom concerts galore, but none of it has really fully scratched my theatre itch.  Luckily, I was able to tune into “THERE WILL BE LIGHT: An International Fundraiser and Concert” the other day.  It was a wonderfully star studded concert, hosted by the beautiful and immensely talented Sarah Drake.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this show.  I came in with an open mind, but in the end, I wasn’t ready for what I got.  Its funny how a woman hosting a benefit from her room in London is the cure I needed for that theatre itch.  The cast was full of West End and Broadway powerhouse performers, and the song selections were nice and diverse.

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Other than the host, Ms Drake, I was really blown away by Michael Tacconi (The Cher Show on Broadway), who sang “Hope She’ll Be Happier” with his guitar.  His voice is incredible, and has a natural way of luring the audience in with his buttery vocals.  A truly great addition to this concert.  I was also thoroughly impressed by Rebecca Stenhouse, who sang “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret and “Apex Predator” from Mean Girls with Sarah.  She had such a great screen presence, and sang both numbers beautifully.  But I have to be honest, the person who I was affected by the most, was the hostess, Sarah Drake.

I don’t know why, but seeing actors creating art against all odds is so inspiring to me.  Sarah Drake has an amazing story, and I think part of the reason I was so deeply touched by this concert is because of her.  Recently, her father passed away, and she chose to pursue theatre in London, and promptly made the move across the pond.  As soon as she got to London, it seems she hit the ground running, and this concert was born.  It is such a breath of fresh air to see her and these artists creating entertainment for the love of it, and to benefit charity.  Singing songs because nothing can stop them from doing what they were meant to do.  After watching this, I truly believe Sarah Drake was meant to be in the spotlight.  The way she effortlessly belts out anthems such as “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl is rare and impressive.  She is the kind of actress who can level with the audience while hosting and making a joke, and then use her finesse to immediately transport you to her world with one look at the beginning of a song.  I have not seen many people like her, and I think she is about to be the next big star on the West End.  I fully expect to see her in Mean Girls, Six, Les Miserables, or something like it soon.  There is no doubt she would blow each role out of the water.

Overall, the show was a delight, and I urge anyone who reads this to check it out here on YouTube.  Link to donate to the Acting For Others is here.  Go hear the music play, and catch Sarah Drake before she gets famous on the West End.