Grease Review: Theatre Online

Reviewer: David Allen

Grease was certainly the word tonight, as CTC presented their first performance of this popular musical. It is indeed an “Electrifying” production from a very talented and hard working production team and cast.

Since its inception in 1971, Grease has been a favourite on Broadway, in the West End and with youth and adult musical theatre groups. Tonight CTC’s production was dynamic and exciting and simply thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. The Directors/Choreographers, Michael Gamble and Julie Easter, capture the essence of the original, but in a fresh and exciting way with stunning dancing, great singing and a lot of fun.

Grease is set in 1959 in the fictional Rydell High School. At the heart of the story is the romance between Cool Dude, Danny Zuko and the sweet new girl in town, Sandy Dumbrowski. They had a secret romance in the summer, but now back in the context of school, peer-pressure and cliques make their love a bit more complicated. Basically the question is ‘Can Danny maintain his cool dude status and still get make demure Sandy his girl?’ The story is told through hit songs such as “Greased Lightnin'”, “We Go Together”, and “Mooning”, recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. It so hit the right note that it ran on Broadway for 8 years!

From the soaring and tuneful opening number, “Rydell Alma Mater” it was obvious that the standard of music in this production was going to be very high. It is matched by breathtaking set piece choreography that lights the stage up. At times one doesn’t know where to look, as there is so much going on, all of it beautifully executed by everyone involved. There have been huge challenges issued to this cast, especially in complex song and dance terms: they have risen to them and produced something very special.

There are incredibly strong and professional performances from the principal actors. Ashley Bright as Danny, Anja Palmer as Sandy, Holly Easter as Rizzo, Hannah Osgood as Frenchie, Hannah Parker as Jan, Lucy Brown as Marty, Aaron Murray as Kenickie, Ollie Lewin as Roger, George Stackhouse as Doody and Jordan Cope as Sonny. Every performer who has a solo or duet steals the stage and makes their own moment a highlight: Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickie and Doody all excel in theirs and Roger and Jan have a lovely comic piece in ‘Mooning’. The Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys are carefully cast and work together with an obvious love of this joyous production.

There are also very good performances from Alix Johnstone as Patty, Alex Hudson as Eugene, Anita Benson as Miss Lynch, Duncan Gadsby as Vince, David Burton as Johnny, Frankie Johnson as Cha Cha and Craig Butterworth as Teen Angel. All thoroughly convincing with some lovely moments of their own and vital to the overall success.

The equally vital and incredibly energetic ensemble, who move, dance and sing with such skill are Bobbie Da’Bell, Sophie Draycott, Jack Hardy, Jerry Gaillard, Sarah Lorimer, Amy McMurray, Vicky Mee, Julie Robinson, Jayne Sanderson, Mel Swift, Alex Trott and Ben Trott.

I was particularly impressed by the excellence of the big whole cast numbers, such as “Summer Nights”, “We Go Together”, “Shakin” and “You’re the one that I Want.” Getting the hand jive right is quite a skill and they manage it with perfect timing. Michael Gamble and Julie Easter obviously have considerable talent as both choreographers and directors; the placement of the cast in these big numbers in what is a relatively small space is outstanding. Attention to detail is also in evidence with individuals and groups always staying in character and props which are very realistic – I like to see liquids in bottles and real food on plates!

The Musical Director, Vicki Hing, leads an excellent band that sounds great and supports the performers well. The standard of singing from the whole cast is of a very high and pleasing standard, with a lovely authentic sound for the era: they certainly know how to wop-bop-a-loo-bop!

I like the set which is bright, adaptable, colourful and well used by the cast. Scene changes are swift and well managed and on a few occasions some of the cast members stay in role while changing the set, bringing an immersive feel to the production.

The lighting design by Robert Bridges complements the set and creates the mood, while the sound by Rob Templeman and Harry Bridge is spot on: I could hear every word. Costume wise the show looks pleasingly authentic to the times with an interestingly fresh take on the pink ladies’ jackets. Authenticity is also true of the set and props: attention to those details that enhance the whole experience.

I have seen Grease a number of times before but I think this production showed me just how great it can be. A real wow of a show from a very hardworking and talented company; CTC have yet another big hit on their record.

I understand that the show is pretty much fully booked for the rest of the week, but if you can get a ticket you will have an absolute ball.

Grease continues at The Town Hall Theatre in Loughborough until Saturday.