Grease is the musical that perhaps originally helped to shape the understanding of a teenager. Based in the 1950s, the classic musical follows post-war kids in a world of Coca Cola, car racing, gang rivalries and school dances. With authoritative rules, potential romances and a reputation to upkeep, the kids of Rydell High discover the true value of friendship.
The original stage production by Jacobs and Casey was first performed in 1971. Loosely based on their own experiences growing up in Chicago, it explored teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, peer pressure and violence. Following productions; including the iconic film adaptation, have since been watered down. Much like the Pink Ladies’ parents liquor cabinet. Over forty years later, Grease is still the word and audiences enjoy the unlikely high school romance of Sandy (Martha Kirby) and Danny (Dan Partridge) as they navigate through being from different worlds.
Made At Curve’s 2019 revival injects a new lease of life into the show. Directed by Nikolai Foster, the company are young and exciting; in most cases bursting straight out of college in their debut. Their boundless energy is captured in Arlene Phillips’ choreography that is sharp and slick. Capturing the gritty underlying essence of junior high back on the streets of Chicago, the creative team have designed a darker, sophisticated set. The show has a rougher edge to it, and the characters are tougher and feistier than ever before. However, the production doesn’t lose all of the kitsch-ness of the original; there's still the irritatingly sweet Patty Simcox (Jessica Croll), the fizzling energy of the adorable candyfloss haired Frenchy (Eloise Davies) and plenty of hand jives. Full of life, it is a feast to watch as the ensemble fill the stage and visually and audibly place you amongst the action in the gymnasium, to the bleachers to the drive in movie theatre.
Star of the show -
Overlooking the entire performance from his illuminated central DJ booth, Darren Bennett steals the show as a slightly pervy but highly entertaining Vince Fontaine. Constantly spinning records, playing the interlude and controlling the video visuals, he simply did not stop. The Curve favourite donned an Elvis Presley style persona with a curled lip and energetic hip action, that bought whoops of laughter at the High School Hop. Bennett also took on the role of Teen Angel in Peter Andre’s absence during this particular performance.
In her professional debut, Martha Kirby added a kick to the sweet Sandy we all know. Kirby’s stage presence made an impact, as she stood tall and proud adding a new depth to the character and changing the prose we are all familiar with. ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ was a truly intimate and special moment, electrified by the raw chemistry Sandy and Danny shared on the stage. Kirby played her role was so well, that it was almost a shame that the ending played out by script to see Sandy change her appearance to bag herself the guy.
Pay close attention to -
Foster’s adaptation not only excludes songs from the film (‘Raining On Prom Night’, ‘In My Day’) but also changes the order of the familiar classics. For example, ‘Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee’ is moved from the Pink Ladies sleepover to Frenchy’s leaving party. It takes a little getting used to, but adds a new perspective to the plot. The performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Can Do,’ placed Sandy and Rizzo’s crooked relationship under the microscope. Rhianne-Louise Mccaulsky played her Rizzo as a quick witted and razor tongued lioness. In this number she broke down her wall in front of Sandy to show the vulnerability and loneliness of character, leaving the audience in awe.
Pulls on the heartstring -
Dooby leads the cast in ‘Those Magic Changes’, a number that didn’t make the film in its entirety. It’s a sweet moment as he demonstrates learning to play the guitar to the gang, who ride on his tune to sing in harmony. In another new number, ‘Freddy My Love’, Marty (Tara Sweeting) naively shows off about her supposed fiance, in an adorable dreamlike fashion to the Pink Ladies. The addition of these numbers allows further acquaintance with the characters and gives this talented young company their moment in the spotlight.
Best musical number -
It’s got to be ‘Greased Lightning’. The newly re-branded T-Birds, the Burger Palace Boys, show their prowess for seduction in this hot number. Elevating the friendship between the fiery Sonny Latieri (Damian Buhagiar), the trusty sidekick Kenickie (Louis Gaunt) and cutesy Doddy (Jordan Abey) alongside our star, Danny Zuko (Dan Partridge), we see how the boys gel together which sets us up to learn more about their trying friendship. Removing the cheesy, disco dance along choreography and replacing it with quick footwork, this is the point of the show where everything revved into action.
One to watch -
The relationship between Ryan Anderson as Roger and Natalie Woods as Jan, offered humble tenderness and comedic value to the show. The two talk frankly about their weight, societal pressures, and what it all means to them as their kooky relationship blossoms. Their sexual tension is broken in ‘Mooning’, a short but funny song that Roger sings about how he shows his bottom.