New production of the rom-com musical classic hits Melbourne
By Bradley Storer
After an impromptu greeting by the ensemble cast of Gordon Frost’s Grease led by Principal Lynch (Val Lehman) welcoming us to the halls of Rydell High School, the lights go down and a brief love duet between romantic leads Sandy (Gretel Scarlett) and Danny (Rob Mills) leads into the electrifying opening ‘Grease is the Word’.
The cast emerges from the smoke, each character instantly distinguishable in the tight and precise ensemble, and all is right with the world. ‘Grease is the Word’ is exciting, characterful and taps immediately into the hot-blooded vivacity of 50’s youth culture.
What is so disappointing is that very little that follows matches the opening number. The classic score is still fantastic, under the musical direction of Stephen Amos, but the energy in both the musical numbers and scenes never reaches the level it should be at. (Act I song ‘These Magic Changes’ led by Chris Durling as Doody comes the closest to achieving the strength of the first number).
Scarlett and Mills are perfectly believable as the lead couple. Mills uses his cheeky charm to good effect as bad boy Danny, and Scarlet gives off an aura of sunny innocence as Sandy, and shows off a surprising range in her number ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’. Danny’s gang, the T-Birds, tend to blur together with their similar hair colours and identical outfits, although Duane McGregor as Roger does get to display some impressive vocals in his duet ‘Mooning’ with Jan (Laura Murphy). Stephen Mahy as Kenickie is oddly restrained to the point of being underpowered, displaying the rock stylings necessary for the biggest number in the show ‘Greased Lightning’ but none of the rock star sexual charisma.
The female characters as a whole fare better. Lucy Maunder as Rizzo is the highlight of the entire show, grabbing attention as soon as she struts out in her dark sunglasses and by the end delivers a commanding performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’. The first-rate ensemble are to be commended for performing with complete energy and commitment in everything they appear in, with special mention to ensemble member Euan Doidge for the onstage acrobatics he pulls off at various points in the show.
Melbourne season: 5th January – 16th March, 2014.
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Tickets: Online at http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=GREASE14