Book, Music and Lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Director: Richard Tunley
Musical Director: Rob Thorne Jr.
Reviewer: Beth Steer
A cultural classic since 1978, musical screenplay Grease has been captivating audiences across stage and screen for decades. Featuring a pair of Elvis-era star-crossed lovers, Grease tells the story of Rydell High School’s coolest kids: the swaggering T-Birds and the sassy Pink Ladies. Set in the ‘50s, it’s a tale fuelled by teenage rebellion, rock and roll and, of course, the automatic, systematic, hydromatic car – Greased Lightning itself – all taking place to an outstanding soundtrack.
Though Grease has been around a while – with the musical’s songs and medley mixes taking a firm hold of many dance floors throughout the country – Richard Tunley’s stage production feels new, fresh and exciting. Of course, the story and the songs remain the same but, rather than running the risk of feeling stale, they are lively, imaginative and entertaining.
Rhian Peake as Sandy is vocally stunning – she manages to bring a new feel to the songs and really brings Sandra Dee to life. Tom Elliot as Danny is similarly talented; he plays with his character and exaggerates Danny’s trademark swagger in a way so as to be amusing and subtly ironic.
The choreography (directed by Nicola Boyd Anderson) is outstanding – there are many complex dances with the whole ensemble performing different parts and sections, and each dancer manages to portray their own story at the same time as being part of the wider rabble.
From the opening song the talent is apparent, and the performance of Grease is the Word sets the precedent for the clever, entertaining and enjoyable duration of the play.
What really makes Orbit Theatre’s production of Grease stand out is the sheer spread of the talent across the cast. Of course, Sandy and Danny are brilliant vocal leads, but the other characters – all of the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds – are equally strong.
In particular, Rizzo’s (Helena May Harrison) performance is powerful – her version of Worse Things I Could Do is as much touching as it is feisty. Similarly, Jan (Laura Phillips) has a very strong voice and performs her rôle brilliantly.
While the vocal talent and top quality acting make the production a great watch, what really separates Grease from other musicals is the sheer amount of fun the characters (and the cast) appear to be having. From the sleepover scene to the hand jive contest to the leather-clad finale, Grease makes you want to be, and feel, involved and, with the whole cast singing We Go Together, the audience cannot help but changitty-chang-shoo-bop along with them.
Runs until 7 November 2015 | Image: Contributed