Grease Review: East Midlands Theatre

Grease – the musical is a lively fun story set in the 1950s USA. It employs a host of upbeat and romantic songs like Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee, Shakin’ At The High School Hop, Sandy, You’re The One That I Want and  Freddy My Love. In this production we also have the beautiful song There Are Worse Things I Could Do sung by Betty Rizzo ( Holly Easter). Most of the audience members will be familiar with these from the popular film version. Audience members that go along to experience something new at Christchurch Theatre Company’s production will have a fun time with the fictional Rydell High School gang on stage. There is plenty to enjoy with the songs and the very high production values that sit happily alongside the enthusiastic and talented performances from the polished young cast.

The singing in Christchurch Theatre Company’s show is of a high standard throughout and there is a consistent level of feeling for the period through the acting and excellent costumes. In Grease, the story is often written tongue in cheek and the scripting can be a bit corny and implausible if you take it too seriously. Would these generally nice young guys really go out with baseball bats and iron pipes to beat up a rival gang? Does sweet demure Sandy (Anja Palmer) really need to suddenly become a vampish femme fatale to attract her man Danny Zuko (Ashley Bright)? In a less candy coated musical perhaps she would consider feminism as a stronger weapon or just find another young man altogether. This show however, is a fluffy feel good musical not a show full of deep political meaning and this is why it remains a popular choice for musical theatre lovers. You can leave your deeper thinking brain at the cloakroom and enjoy the frivolity and fun of the performers clearly having as good a time as you. Grease has some very funny moments and the comedy here is handled well.

From a huge talented cast there are some stand out performances: Holly Easter – very believable as Betty Rizzo; Craig Butterworth – vocally impressive as Teen Angel; Ashley Bright is spot on as Danny Zuko; Anja Palmer – is very engaging and vocally good as Sandy Dumbrowski.

Anita Benson completely nails the strict teacher Miss Lynch with just the right amount of hidden vulnerability coupled with academic severity and Aaron Murray makes a fine Kenickie. The whole of Christchurch Theatre Club’s Grease ensemble are to be praised for their utter devotion to the piece and their professionalism. The hired set from Scenic Projects looks terrific in all its settings.

Director/choreographer Michael Gamble, and director/choreographer Julie Easter, musical director Vicky Hing and the CTC creative team have clearly worked exceptionally hard to produce what ultimately proves to be a very credible and overall enjoyable show. If you are looking for a fun, bright and breezy musical and a 50s nostalgia fest this show has it all. In fact the company are so renowned for their superb productions they often sell out. Grease is such a case. We can hardly wait until we get to review RENT which runs 30th April – 4 May 2019.