We may not be seeing Summer Nights this week, weather wise but at Loughborough Town Hall the sun is shining and there is great fun to be had with this brilliant slice of retro teen/coming of age High School awopbopaloobap awopbam boom fun musical. Everyone knows the story of Rydell High’s Danny, the leader of the pack and High School “jock” and Sandy, the prim and proper “Sandra Dee” character who has just moved to Rydell and reacquaints herself with Danny after some Summer Lovin’ with Zuko, There’s also the T Birds and The Pink Ladies and the unforgettable soundtrack, so I don’t need to go into the story for you. Ashley Bright (Danny Zuko) is perfect casting. I always thought that John Travolta’s version was just a bit too dense, but Ash’s version portrays Zuko as an ordinary lad who likes to be with the ladies as well as being one of the boys, and that for me makes him more believable. He looks the part and he is a talented singer who delivers a song.
Anja Palmer (Sandy Dumbrowski), again looks the part and has mastered that Aussie accent that Olivia Newton-John did so well. The transformation from Miss Prim to sex kitten is stunning. Holly Easter (Rizzo) really looked that iconic movie part. The hair, the outfits, the voice, the attitude. Squint and it could be Stockard Channing on stage. In the movie Rizzo was always one of my favourite female characters, maybe because of the vulnerability just below that tough surface, and Holly did a great job as Rizzo.Aaron Murray (Kenickie), and you know I think I prefer Aaron’s Kenickie to the original Jeff Conaway, once more because he’s portrayed in a more human way than the caricature dumbo in the film. Aaron brings a more streetwise version of Kenickie to the stage, and I like that.
Hannah Donnelly (Jan), Lucy Brown (Marty) and Hannah Osgood (Frenchy) are well cast as The Pink Ladies, and being a big fan of Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the film, I was taking a good long look at Hannah, and she did the role proud.Jordan Cope (Sonny), Ollie Lewin (Roger) and George George Stackhouse (Doody), again perfect casting. Loved George’s version of “Those Magic Changes” and Ollie’s “Mooning”, both songs highlighting their excellent falsettos. Craig Butterworth (Teen Angel) gets to show off his vocals on “Beauty School Dropout” and his wings in just one of this show’s many highlights. Alix Johnston (Patty), Alex Hudson (Eugene), Anita Benson (Miss Lynch), Duncan Gadsby (Vince Fontaine), David Burton (Johnny Casino) and Frankie Johnson (Cha Cha Digregio) complete the main cast.
And another dozen make up the ensemble parts, so as you can tell, this is a large cast!Co Directed and Co Choreographed by Michael Gamble and Julie Easter, this show is an explosion of energy and brilliant dance routines. Just look at the choreography for “We Go Together” and you’ll see how well timed choreography is essential to this musical. Vicki Hing is the Musical Director and I expected nothing less than a powerful and punchy sound from Vicki and her orchestra, and that is what I got. You just know when you look at the programme what you are going to get when you look at the names in there, and there are certain names I look out for. Vicki’s is one of those names I look for.Lighting Design (Rob Bridges) and Sound Design (Rob Temperton), as usual at Loughborough Town Hall is a colourful visual and aural delight.Loved the costumes, hair and make up which all gave a wonderful aura of the era.
One thing I noticed about this production which some other productions have not done, is the complete movie soundtrack is used. In some productions, some songs are omitted, due to the fact that the company have to buy separate rights for some songs. this show has the lot. I’m so pleased at this as I know one of those additional rights is for the song “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” which has always been one of my favourite songs from the movie.They are all there, “You’re The One That I Want”, “Summer Nights”, “Grease”, “Sandy”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, “Born To Hand Jive”, “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together” and so many more. Okay, now I get picky. there were a couple of songs that I thought weren’t quite phrased right in parts and this may have led to them not giving the full emotional impact for me. I know that this was first night, and as you know I am a very forgiving type of bloke, so maybe I am making too many comparisons with the film soundtrack. Let’s face it, if this is the only thing I can nit pick at in this massively popular and incredibly entertaining and iconic work, then you know that this reviewer enjoyed himself, and the rime flew by liked Greased Lightning. “Grease” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 2 February 2019 if you can get a ticket. It’s the one that you’ll want to see this week.