‘Grease’ at MPAC: In a musical packed with hits, this one stands out

'Teen Angel' Avionce Hoyles sings to Emma Kaiven ('Frenchy'), a junior from Warren Hills H.S. playing a senior at fictional Rydell High in the MPAC production of 'Grease.' Photo courtesy of MPAC.
'Teen Angel' Avionce Hoyles sings to Emma Kaiven ('Frenchy'), a junior from Warren Hills H.S. playing a senior at fictional Rydell High in the MPAC production of 'Grease.' Photo courtesy of MPAC.
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There are plenty of reasons to catch Grease this weekend at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

The choreography is robust, the young cast is impressive, and yowza, what a score.

But if forced to narrow it down to a single reason you should head to MPAC, we would submit Beauty School Dropout.

It’s not the first song that comes to mind in a musical packed with hits. But guaranteed, it’s the one you’ll be whistling after this show, the seventh annual spring production at the Morristown theater.

Avionce Hoyles is such a dynamo as the crooning Teen Angel that it’s a wonder he didn’t set off tornado alerts on every cell phone in the place at Friday’s opening night.

One of three Actors’ Equity pros in this production, Hoyles stole it Friday with an over-the-top performance that brought spectators to their feet.

This guy can sing. Octaves are no match for him. And Hoyles is funny, too, as he needles beauty school dropout Frenchy (Emma Kaiven, a junior at Warren Hills High School in real life) about returning to high school.

A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, the South Carolina native has lengthy credits that include Orange is the New Black, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards and Bat Out of Hell.

Sure, the standard numbers get their due–Grease Is the Word, Hopelessly Devoted to You, You’re the One That I Want, We Go Together. Charles Santoro’s pit orchestra rocks.

The stars align in 'Grease' at MPAC, May 31, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The stars align in ‘Grease’ at MPAC, May 31, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Summer Nights, featuring leads Brianna Ascione (Sandy) and Christian Leadley (Danny) with the cast, is a swirling treat, beautifully staged by Director Cathy Roy. Likewise for Those Magic Changes, featuring quick-change artist Kenny Lee (Doody) of MPAC’s Performing Arts Company on guitar and vocals.

Doody also harmonizes sweetly with New York hip hop producer Glenn Devar (Kenickie) on Rock N’ Roll Party Queen.

Hope Keil (Marty), a sophomore at the Morris County School of Technology, delivers a sultry vocal on Freddy My Love. Montclair State University grad Jesse Bush (Roger) and Brianna Davies (Jan), a junior at Parsippany Hills High School, don’t let Mooning fall through the cracks.

And given a story line which, let’s face it, is thin as a bobby pin, Whippany Park High School senior Kelly Bellarmino manages to wring some pathos out of the trampy Rizzo with There Are Worse Things I Could Do.

But that’s all beside the point. Drop what you’re doing and check out Beauty School Dropout. Just make sure to silence your phone first.

The Mayo Performing Arts Center presents Grease, its spring musical, for three more performances: Saturday, June 1, 2019, at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sunday, June 2, at 2 pm. Tickets are $20-$30. At 100 South St., 973-539-8008.

The cast of 'Grease' with Greased Lightnin', opening night at MPAC, May 31, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The cast of ‘Grease’ with Greased Lightnin’, opening night at MPAC, May 31, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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