It is the dilemma of most girls; bad-boys are the ones that we want. Do you stay pure and hope they’ll love and respect you, or do you squeeze into some unbelievably tight pants and pretend to smoke a cigarette, just to hold their attention? In reality, probably neither of these options are feasible but fortunately Grease exists to show us a perfect world in which the skirts are long, the fringes are blunt and the boys have real swagger, not just hipster-swag.
I think Grease was always a risky proposition; the film is a cult classic, a solid staple of the childhood of both today’s youth and the generation in which it was released. It would be impossible to go into a stage production without preconceptions; one, the entire cast will be in their thirties pretending to be teenagers and two, there will be a lot of hip-thrusting dance moves and catchy songs.
Luckily, director Amanda Rowe disappoints on the first point; the entire cast is a suitable age for their characters. Emily Schwab is particularly adorable as Sandy, with just the right amount of wide eyed innocence; even for the musically ignorant. Under musical director Gordon Coombes, she is also easily the most vocally gifted. She is someone to which the eye is automatically drawn and easily dominates audience attention both during her solos and in group numbers.
The cast falls into the trap of trying to fulfil audience expectations too much; Buddy Dawson tries to be John Travolta’s Danny Zuko, rather than bringing something new to the part, which at times borders on the ridiculous. Tegan Gully, who plays Betty Rizzo, is also a victim of trying a little bit too hard, but I sincerely applaud her ability to snog on stage for five minutes straight.
There was an unfortunate hip-thrusting incompetency within the cast; no one had mastered the cheeky move, which is so fundamental to most of the dancing in Grease. The choreography (Carmel Vistoli) was at its best with only a few characters on the stage; with a full cast involved, everything was a bit confused. In fact, ‘confused’ could be applied to a few parts of the production; the lighting was occasionally several beats behind the action, the set changes were slow and painful, and the sound had an unfortunate way of fading out in the middle of a song.
These technical deficiencies did not wholly diminish my enjoyment of Grease, however. The energy of the cast was infectious, and you can hardly help but to have a good time.
As ever, Grease asks (and answers) the age old question, can pants really get that tight? Yes, yes they can.
Reviewed by Emily Francine Palmer
Venue: Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street Adelaide
Season: 16 – 26 October 2013
Duration: 2 hours including 20 minute interval
Tickets: $20.00 – $32.00
Photo source: The Met website