Maine State Music Theatre is cruising through its 59th season with its third main stage production, “Grease.” The high-energy musical is ’50s nostalgia fun, with a contagious score, leather jackets, vibrant plaids and entertaining choreography to rev up the enthusiasm.

The bygone era of sock hops, poodle skirts and hot rods rocks the Maine State Music Theatre stage with colorful costuming by Travis M. Grant, a versatile set by scenic designer Charles S. Kading and strategic lighting by Jesse Klug. A border of lighted records is particularly eye-catching, completing the retro look.

Fans of the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John will revel in this staged rendition, directed and choreographed by Mark Martino. Maine State Music Theatre has opted to purchase the additional rights that include the songs from the movie, capturing the sound and feel of the beloved classic.

Under the direction of Samuel Thorne Bagala, the score soars to new heights, energizing the stage with the well-known songs of life at Rydell High. Smile-inducing ridiculousness is nicely balanced with touching moments of teen woe.

Onstage sweethearts Neil Starkenberg and Chelsea Williams return to Maine State Music Theatre as Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski, following a successful run as Sky and Sophie in last year’s “Mamma Mia.” Starkenberg rules the roost as the leader of the “Burger Palace Boys,” bringing out the sensitive boy beneath his character’s tough-guy image. The song “Sandy” showcases his satin-smooth tenor.

Williams embodies the girl-next-door ideal as the new girl, Sandy, with bubblegum ’50s naivety and a high, sweet vocal on such emotion-filled songs as “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” She equally rocks the bad girl look and persona at the end, highlighting her versatility as an actor.

All the “Grease” characters that we’ve come to know are vividly brought to life by Maine State Music Theatre’s dynamic 34-member cast. Kevin Nietzel (Kenickie), Matty Rickard (Sonny), John K. Kramer (Doody) and Adolpho Blaire (Roger) are Danny’s greaser pals, and Gerianne Perez (Rizzo), Aleka Emerson (Marty), Lilly Tobin (Frenchy) and Gillian Hassert (Jan) are their sassy “Pink Ladies.” Backed by an 18-member ensemble, they deliver rousing renditions of “Summer Nights,” “Those Magic Changes” and “Grease Lightning,” with the deep voiced Nietzel — a former performance intern from 2014 — leading the fluid car-themed choreography on “Grease Lightning” from atop Kenickie’s cleverly designed car.

Blaire and Hassert are pure fun as Roger and Jan, with Blaire showcasing his high vocal range on the duet “Mooning,” delivering classic ’50s vocals. Emerson and Perez also stand out as Marty and Rizzo. Emerson delivers a strong rendition of “Freddy, My Love,” backed by the Pink Ladies on combs and hairbrushes, and Perez is sultry on the moving “There Are Worse Things That I Could Do.”

Tobin is a well-cast delight as the squeaky-voiced Frenchy, particularly on “Beauty School Dropout.” The song features the velvety-voiced Austin Miller as Teen Angel, backed by the female ensemble in silver updos.

The memorable cast also features Samantha Schiffman as cheerleader Patty Simcox, Mike Baskowski as the nerdy Eugene Florczyk, Tony Lawson as DJ Vince Fontaine, Chiara Trentalange as dance contest winner “Cha-Cha DiGregorio and the always entertaining Charis Leos as Miss Lynch.

“Grease” is a high-spirited blast from the past, and Maine State Music Theatre keeps up the rockin’ tradition with a high octane cast that was “born to hand jive.”

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle

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