‘Grease is the word’ and has been for over 40 years; a story of friendship and teenagers in love. It's 1959 and the students of Rydell High School are starting a new school year.
After a summer romance on the beach Danny Zuko, the leader of the T-Birds, a gang of greasers and Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl in town who is befriended and hangs out with the Pink Ladies, discover they're both unexpectedly at the same High School. We follow them through the ups and downs of trying to fit in with their piers and eventually trying to be like each other so they can be together. Will they rekindle their summer loving?
How fitting that SMTC should chose the 40th anniversary of the film Grease to be the year to put on their production of Grease the Musical. A slightly different offering than the film, the stage musical has songs and scenes pop up in different places to where you’d expect and the storyline isn’t as strong as the film which makes it rather interesting to try and follow at points, especially if you’re overly familiar with the film. Despite this SMTC seem to have bought on board a good Director in Tim Willis whose ensemble approach with minimal scenery and staging made the scenes flow from one to the next very well with all cast members moving scenery and props and staying in character whilst doing so. A great team effort that looked great on stage.
The casts’ group musical numbers were vibrant and enthusiastically delivered with lovely little touches of doo wop backing vocals which the audience responded to with encouraging giggles as it was perfect for the songs where it featured putting us firmly in 1950s America. Great bursts of harmony from the cast and well rehearsed moves on the bleachers and for iconic full cast numbers such as Summer Nights were a credit to Musical Director Sam Young and Choreographer Julie Bedlow-Howard.
The cast was strong with great solo vocals and from Ian Meikle (Doody) and Doug Gilbert-Smith (Kenickie/Teen Angel). Although a little unsure in the first half Zoe Hobman (Sandy) really made up for it in the second half with flawless vocals in Hopelessly Devoted to You and the reprise of Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee and when she smiled with determination before her transformation from girl next door to bad girl Sandy, she came alive.
Casey McKernan (Danny) played some familiar characteristics to John Travolta’s Danny Zuko but brought his own coolness to the part and Bex Lou Walton (Rizzo) was as feisty as Stockard Channing’s Rizzo, especially in the fight scenes with Kenickie and she led the girls throughout the show setting the acting bar very high for the whole company.
Some great performances from all the cast but perhaps the loveliest for me was the comedy and blossoming on stage relationship between Nicola Noble (Jan) and Isaac Alun-Jones (Roger); a lovely vocal duet in Mooning, great comedic line delivery by Noble throughout a great on stage chemistry between them both that you could see unfolding. It was really lovely to watch and totally endearing.
If you’re looking for a fun filled, action packed, exuberant, fast paced and feel good evening then this is a must see show by SMTC. A young cast full of energy and all those songs we love right through to the Grease Megamix at the end that’ll have you singing along.
Runs until 1 December 2018 at the Bridge House Theatre, Warwick.
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