Dubbed as ‘The No. 1 Party Musical,’ Grease has returned to Melbourne and it’s as sexual, humorous, energetic, colourful and 50s as ever.
Having initially been released as a theatre production in Chicago in 1971, the popular sing-along musical has been remade time and time again, made even more popular by the release of the 1978 film Grease featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, yet audiences can never get enough of the production, as they cheered and clapped many times throughout tonight’s show.
Five minutes prior to the show Vince Fontaine (Bert Newton) took to the stage to warm up the crowd as a radio host. More warming up before the dancing and singing commenced saw Miss Lynch, principal of Rydell High, attending to the stage with some of her top students to teach the audience some of the non-sensical lyrics of “We Go Together”. This was as much singing we’d see the audience do tonight, as no-one sang along throughout the night. Were they too embarrassed to sing along as some of them may have done while watching the movie at home? A live band played the backing tracking for all the songs that were performed and also warmed up with a medley of Grease tracks. So much action before Act 1 had even started!
Following on from appearances in Wicked the Musical and Legally Blonde: The Musical, former Australian Idol contestant Rob Mills (Danny) and Wicked and MAMMA MIA!’s Gretel Scarlett (Sandy) were the stars of the show; the chemistry between the two leads was as phenomenal as it was between Travolta and Newton John. Scarlett’s accent was eerily close to that of Newton John’s.
Set out into two acts, the story line was kept true to the movie, however the songs were all jumbled up in different places to the originals. Even the mannerism were matched, including the scene where Danny and Sandy are at the drive-in theatre and Sandy storms out of the car jamming the door into Danny’s genitals.
The standout song for the first half of the show was “Greased Lightnin’ ” with the Thunderbirds dancing and singing inside and atop the convertible Greased Lightnin’ car, which when spun around featured mesmerising bright lights. The highlight for part two and the entire show was “Beauty School Drop-Out”. Despite only performing this one song, Todd McKenney got the biggest cheer of the night as he high kicked and pranced around the stage as Frenchy’s Teen Angel encouraging her to ‘go back to high school”. Surrounded by angels dressed in beautiful white clothing and graduation hats, McKenney snuck in a shake of a maraca to a couple of bars of “I Go To Rio”, referencing his portrayal as the songs singer Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz and to promote the release of his new album of Peter Allen songs, as well as performing a one-man Peter Allen show.
Another idol was featured in the show, with Anthony Callea’s version of “Born To Hand Jive” during the Prom scene being nothing special.
Despite the sets being colourful and awe-inspiring with their 50s style neon lighting and the actors being adorned with 50s style modest costuming, the vibrancy and epicness of King Kong still etched in my mind from last year made it hard for me to fully enjoy the experience of this local production. Some tickets, even up on the third level, surpassed the $100 mark but were probably a bit excessive, especially considering most people had to keep leaning forward in the Dress and Grand Circle’s sections to get a better view of the stage. I will admit though that I felt like out loud aloud along with the cast, however had to sing along quietly as no-one else was singing along.