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Review: Grease at the Arts Theatre

By Lia Cocks

Well, Grease certainly is the word! And for our first foray back into theatres, being welcomed by Rydell High is a treat!

We are all familiar with the cult film Grease, however this version is based on the Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Set in 1959 at fictional Rydell High School, the story follows ten working class teenagers as they navigate the complexities of peer pressure, politics, personal core values and love.

With a score borrowing heavily from the sounds of early rock and roll, Grease was initially a raw, aggressive and sometimes vulgar show, but subsequent productions sanitised it and toned it down. The show references social issues such as teenage pregnancy, gang violence, sexual exploration and rebellion. All which are still current issues the youth of today face.

The musical’s basic plot is a subversion of the common trope of 1950s cinema, where instead of the male lead being transformed into a more sensitive and sympathetic character, it is the woman who is drawn into the man’s influence and transforms into his fantasy.

Adelaide Youth Theatre’s production borrows the rawness from the original and adds a youthful modern touch to bring it into the 21st century.

The exuberant tone was set with the opening number ‘Grease is the Word’ with the cast singing and dancing down the aisles. This first scene introduces all the characters, and the leads look tight and strong, and work well together.

The set was simple, but spectacular, with smooth changes between school, bedroom, workshop and dance hall. The use of projections as the backdrop really added to the impression we were in the 50s.

As soon as the band started up ‘Summer Nights’, I had goosebumps, then Gemma Dandie chimed in with her songbird trill as Sandy and I was hooked. She was pitch perfect from start to finish, and perfectly cast as the girl who steals womaniser Danny’s heart.

Nathan Stafford as the lead, smooth greaser of the T-Birds, put his own spin on the walk and talk of Danny Zuko, but kept the essence of the character that we all know and love. His dance prowess, stage presence and gorgeous vocals in ‘Sandy’ really show off his versatility as a performer.

Kristian Latella’s Kenickie was a sensitive tough guy alongside Erica Obur’s gritty portrayal of  Rizzo. Both embodied the tempestuous relationship between the two characters, and gave their all in their signature songs.

Doody was brought to life by Cobain Bradley, and held ‘Those Magic Changes’ as his own.

Commendations to Deon Martino-Williams who had the audience captivated the entire time during ‘Mooning’. With his incredible Frankie Valli-esque vocals, and timbre tone, I was pleased to see the growth of this young performer.

Wonderful work from Oscar Bridges, Ava-Rose Askew, Montana Vincent and Imogen Brown rounding out the T-Birds and Pink Ladies. Notable mention to young Callum Logan as the quintessential high school geek Eugene. A show like this is nothing without the energy of the ensemble, and this huge ensemble delivered in scenes such as ‘Shakin at the High School Hop’ and the epic finale.

Fantastic direction by seasoned youth Director Michelle Davy, fabulous choreography by Thomas Brodie Phillips, especially recreating iconic scenes such as ‘We Go Together’ and ‘You’re the One That I Want’, and admirable music direction by Serena Martino-Williams.

There were times I felt the band could’ve been faster with musical cues and transitions, but overall brought the sentimentality and musicality of this archetypal musical to life.

Huge congratulations to the crew, especially the wardrobe team in charge of ‘Beauty School Dropout’ - what an effort but oh so worth it! It looked spectacular - a shimmering and glistening of silver and white awashed the theatre!

Another thoroughly entertaining and high level production from Adelaide Youth Theatre. Don’t miss out!


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