Saturday, October 19, 2013

GREASE

Presented by John Frost

Lyric Theatre - Sydney
Sydney Season commenced 17th October 2013

Review by Bill Stephens

"Greased Lightnin' " ..the T.Birds

John Frost has gathered together a terrific cast for his latest production of the ubiquitous 1950’s musical “Grease”, which opened in Sydney this week in the Lyric Theatre.

Stephen Mahy (L) Robb Mills and Gretel Scarlet (C) Lucy Maunder (R)
Robb Mills portrays a delightfully dorky and agreeable, Danny, who surprises with his terpsichorean skills particularly in the “Born to Hand Jive” number.
 Relative newcomer, Gretel Scarlett, channelling Olivia Newton-John, is perfect as the sugar-sweet, Sandy, nailing her big moment with a superb version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You”.
Lucy Maunder, seen at the Q recently in “Noel and Gertie”, is excellent as the gutsy and acerbic Rizzo, bringing depth and sophistication to her show-stopping interpretation of “There Are Worse Things I Can Do”. Even the usually crass Kenickie turns out to be rather loveable as played by Stephen Mahy. All work hard to bring some new perspective to roles which are over-familiar from numerous productions both professional and amateur.


With Stephen Amos’ gutsy band in full view on stage above the action, and its bright paper cut-out style scenery, the production echoes the Melbourne Production Company’s “in concert” stagings, relying on lots of colourful costumes, some brilliantly manic choreography by Arlene Phillips’ and the full-on energy of the willing young cast to provide the spectacle. However the show’s none the worse for that as everyone knows the story and songs backwards and director David Gilmore drives the action along at a fast bat, garnishing it with witty directorial surprises and lavish production numbers to insure that the audience’ attention never flags.




Todd McKenney as Teen Angel
Just in case all that is not enough though,  there’s also a quartet of big-name guest artists filling the feature roles. Looking like a mirror-ball on speed, Todd McKenney, surrounded by a posse of gorgeous show-girls, is a vision to behold as he camps it up outrageously as Teen Angel, briefly referencing “The Boy from Oz”, (“Oops! Sorry wrong show)”, in the process.  It’s a pity someone can’t come up with another starring role for McKenney to harness all that pizazz.

Anthony Callea, as Johnny Casino, almost gets lost in the crowd belting “Born to Hand Jive”, and it’s great to see Bert Newton back on stage playing a great Bert Newton as the radio presenter Vince Fontaine. Ditto Val Lehman playing Miss Lynch as a rather homely Bea Smith.

Billed as the No.1 Party musical, this production of “Grease” certainly fulfils that promise, while providing a delightfully entertaining reminder of why this show has retained its popularity for more than 40 years. 

 

Lucy Maunder leading the ensemble for "Grease"

Photos by Jeff Busby

 

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