Grease Is Still The Word
By Amanda Woodbine
Ever since I was young, my favourite movie was Grease. Obviously lewd jokes flew over my head back then but nonetheless, I was awestruck with Sandy’s beauty, in love with Danny Zuko and mesmerised by the singing and dancing that was on my screen. As I grew up I became aware of the original stage show and saw many productions (including the fabulous Arena Spectacular) and my love only deepened for Grease. With all this prior hype I was worried that the current touring production of Grease, presented by John Frost, would not live up to my expectations, but boy did it not only meet my expectations but exceeded it on all levels.
Being a fan of both the stage show and the movie, I was delighted to see elements of both present throughout. This show tends to follow the story of the original stage show more, for example no car race near the end of the show and Sandy doesn’t go to the school dance, but has put all of the favourite songs from the movie into the stage show. If you go in expecting to see the movie on a stage you will be disappointed, my advice is go in with an open mind and be ready for anything.
The creative team of this show deserve a tremendous round of applause. The music that everyone has grown to love over the years (and probably sung at plenty of karaoke nights) was orchestrated and played by a phenomenal on-stage band, which is a concept that I believe shows true respect to the team of talented musicians that take the audience on their journey; kudos to Chris Egan, Larry Wilcox, Mike Dixon, Peter Casey and Stephen Amos for this. The musical staging and choreography brought to us by Arlene Philips, Charlotte Bull and Natalie Gilhome was fun, intricate where it needed to be and made you want to get up and dance with the actors on the stage and meets any expectations a dancer may have when going to see Grease. A special mention needs to go to Terry Parsons for the set – WOW! From the moment the curtain goes up you are transported to the world of the 1950’s and this incredible set takes you through the journey with the help of the fantastic lighting design by Mark Henderson.
Australians love celebrities in their musicals and Grease does not fall short on this. With a star-studded cast led by the ever alluring Rob Mills as Danny Zuko as well as some extremely talented newcomers Grease delivers high-energy yet believable characters without straying from the characters we already know. Gretel Scarlett as Sandy is simply divine, she sings exquisitely in Hopelessly Devoted To You and dances up a storm when she transforms in You’re The One That I Want. Special mention also needs to go to Stephen Mahy as Kenickie and Lucy Maunder as Rizzo as well as the rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies – all of their chemistry was on the mark and any song they lead is spectacular. Watch in particular for Greased Lightning lead by Kenickie, Magic Changes led by Doody (Chris Durling) and the super cute and fun Mooning sung by Jan and Roger (Laura Murphy and Duane McGregor). Anthony Callea has such pizzazz as Johnny Casino and the Hand-Jive was a highlight of the show with Danny and Cha Cha (Andrea Arena) showing everyone exactly why they win the dance contest – their dance was slick, sharp and didn’t miss a beat. Todd McKenney is the standout performer in this production and we are left with true disappointment at how brief his stage time is. Screen and stage veterans, Bert Newton as Vince Fontaine and Val Lehman light up the stage whenever they enter bringing experience and a good chuckle whenever they enter. The dancers are highly energetic and carry the upbeat ‘cheeseball’ mood of the show well.
Grease is being marketed as “The No. 1 Party Musical” and it certainly lives up to this reputation. You will walk away from it still being in love with Danny and Sandy, wanting to be a Pink Lady or a T-Bird and I’m sure you will be singing the songs for the next few weeks, as I know I will be.