Grease Delivers an Energetic Experience


‘Grease’ doesn’t kick off with a bang right at the get-go. As you wait for the curtain to rise DJ Vince Fontaine (Bert Newton) slides out from the side of the stage to entertain the waiting crowd.

As the final patrons slip in to take their seats Headmistress Miss Lynch (Val Lehman) comes on stage and begins to lead the class in a recital of the words to some of the songs in the show – with assistance from her two best students Patty and Eugene.

This is a show that acknowledges that the audience has most likely seen the film version a billion times and audience participation is put front and centre.

Once things do seriously get underway though, it”s a visually powerful scene.  The stage is filled with jocks and girls and  geeks, the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds, all the characters of the show are suddenly in front of you – oozing coolness. Singing the theme ‘Grease is the Word’ it’s really like a high school reunion as the familiar characters of Frenchie, Jan, Marty, Doodie and Kenickie appear, and right in the middle of it all is one of the coolest characters of musical theatre, the quintessential bad girl – Rizzo.

Kirby Burgess catches the audiences attention right at the start and doesn’t let go of it until she belts out ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ at the end of the second act. Just as Jack and Karen are the best parts on ‘Will and Grace’, ‘Grease’ is one of those shows where the supporting characters are often far more interesting that the leads.

In this case the leads are Rob Mills, sporting a decent quiff as Danny and Gretel Scarlett, who gives a worthy performance as Sandy. Mills shows he’s got some good comic timing, while Scarlett shows how great a singer she is with her delivery of ‘Hopefully Devoted to You’.

The production is a respectful mix of the original 1971 stage musical and the 1978 feature film that followed. While it maintains the musicals much simpler storyline, it also brings in some of the additional songs that were written for the movie. It’s not surprising seeing ‘Grease’ without ‘Grease is the Word’, ‘Hoplessly Devoted to You’, ‘Sandy’ or ‘You’re the One That I Want’ would be unfathomable.  Yet some of the songs that were dropped in the film version are retained, making this version interesting for the majority of people who would have probably only seen the film.

Alongside the notable appearances from Bert Newton and Val Lehman, John Paul Young takes on the role of band leader Johnny Casino, while Todd McKenny makes the very most of his short appearance on stage as Teen Angel. If there’s an trophy for ‘most fun had on stage’ at The Helpmann Awards – McKenney has it all sewn up.

I must admit while JPY was delivering ‘Born to Hand Jive’ I couldn’t help but wonder what the Melbourne and Sydney seasons were like with Anthony Callea in the role. The number seemed to lack energy, although it was not just Young’s performance – the musical delivery seemed tepid in comparison to the same song in the film version.

Also delivering notable performances are Scott McConnell in the role of Doody, who repeatedly captures your attention throughout the show and Eli Cooper who plays the nerdy Eugene – and gets one of the best moments of the whole show.

‘Grease’ is fun all the way, go along, sing along and enjoy the experience.

‘Grease’ is playing at the Crown Theatre until Sunday July 27th. Tickets are available at Ticketek.

Graeme Watson



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