BWW Reviews: GREASE - Cheese is the Word
It's hard to know where to start with this production of Grease. So much is right, even more is wrong. It is a combination of product and treatment of the product that impacts on the overall aesthetic of this show. The audience participation section at the beginning of the show is particularly laboured and drawn out and it takes an almighty burst of energy from the ensemble in Grease is the Word to recapture our waning attention. This energy level is never matched through the rest of the show leaving it feeling slow, clunky and particularly cheesy. Grease is an almighty movie, a classic that spans generations and has some of the more iconic characters of our time. While independently Rob Mills as Danny and Gretel Scarlett as Sandy do admirable jobs, collectively there in an apathetic connection between them. Their relationship, like a lot of the show, is underwhelming.
There are a few things that really stand out within this show. The energy of the ensemble and the T-Birds is one of those things. The opening and the closing as well as Greased Lightin' sung by the impressive Stephen Mahy are the musical highlights of the evening. Much credit to musical supervisor Peter Casey and musical director Stephen Amos for crisp arrangements littered throughout some very impressive ensemble singing. The band is another highlight, its sound and subtlety mixed with its all out rock keep the show uplifted when it may otherwise fall flat.
Anthony Callea as Johnny Casino gives the stand out vocal performance of the night with The Handjive while Todd McKenney commands the stage when he enters for Beauty School Dropout. It is a shame that these two gentlemen are not on the stage for longer. Lucy Maunder as Rizzo captures our attention from the opening and her characterization throughout the spoken text is outstanding. However, while vocally pretty, the rawness, passion and desperation of Rizzo in There Are Worse Things I Could Do is never fully realized.
Sound design by Bobby Aitken is vibrant for the most part, except when hand held microphones are used, often in bizarre moments, when the sound becomes distorted and we are taken away from the musical and its story and hurled into the concert version of it. Mark Henderson's Lighting design emphasizes the fun of the show while Terry Parson's flat, boring set takes that fun away.
While a strong piece of theatre it is not, this production of Grease with its audience participation, sing along and its concert feel will draw in the audience who will enjoy its vibe and moments of high energy. If you are willing not to scratch under the surface and you take this musical on face value alone you will come out having had a fun night. If you dig a little deeper you will be left feeling particularly underwhelmed.
Her Majesty's Theatre Melbourne