Presented by John Frost with Elizabeth Williams, The Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Seol & Company
Reviewed 7 August 2014
Grease has been the word since the seventies; the Travolta/Newton-John film version making it more so than the stage show – until now. The version currently playing at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre is big, vibrant, exuberant, gloriously over-the-top and absolutely loads of FUN.
Director David Gilmore’s production does not take Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s story seriously and nor should it. Gilmore pays homage to both the stage and film versions wonderfully, with audience sing-a-longs, iconic re-creations, clever little touches (watch the electrified logo at the start of the show very carefully) and slight salutes adding much to the highly entertaining atmosphere. All of this takes place on a set that consists of more neon lighting than Rundle Mall and Hindley Street combined. Luke Hunter and his fantastic band rev up the already great score to even greater heights.
Arlene Phillips’ choreography (recreated for the Australian tour by Charlotte Bull) is intricate, energetic, funny and stunning, and is given precision and tightness by the cast: in particular, the very talented ensemble (Andrea Arena, Jared Bryan, Elisha Chin, Xander Ellis, Shaye Hopkins, Heath Keating, Glen Oliver, Mitchell Mahony, Natasha Marconi, Scott Morris, Jessica Lindon, Daniel Raso, Stephanie Silcock and Jessica White).
Despite fluctuating accents, this cast is great. Rob Mills as Danny reminds one of Frankie Avalon with a Travolta style; and while Gretel Scarlett channels Newton-John in looks and accent as Sandy, she strengthens the character and vocals to deliver her own wonderful version. However, it is Lucy Maunder’s superb portrayal of Rizzo that captures one’s eye. She is tough, but with sensitivity that shows itself beautifully in Act Two.
This production is peppered with great Australian entertainments icons, and nearly all of them deliver, but none disappoint. Val Lehman is the perfect headmistress, Miss Lynch, and one is never reminded of Bea Smith from television’s Prisoner; love fills the air when John Paul Young (Johnny Casino) appears and proves he’s still a great Rocker from way back; whilst Todd McKenney steals the show as Teen Angel, with his hilarious hamming and personality dazzling even more than his stunning costume.
Aussie national treasure Bert Newton is too old and miscast as Vince Fontaine, but you have to just love him – he sparkles with a joy and vitality that is infectious.
This version of Grease is definitely one that you want to see!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Your Twitter: @briangods
Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 3 – 31 August 2014
Duration: 2 hours 20 mins including interval
Tickets: $64.90 – $119.90
Bookings: Book online through the BASS website or phone 131 246