GREASE

Date 6th April 2019
Society Banbridge Musical Society
Venue IMC Cinema, Banbridge
Director Ian Milford
Musical Director Niall O’Flaherty
Choreographer Lynn Gourley

Report

Author: Sheelagh Hobart

This 1971 rock ’n roll musical seems to never lose its appeal – evident to BMS in full houses throughout their run. Since its first performances in a night club in Chicago the content has been toned down a little but still tackles social issues such as peer pressure, teenage pregnancy and gang violence. Following ten teenagers, its themes include friendship, love, teenage rebellion and adolescent sexual exploration. Grease’s 3388 performance run on Broadway held the record for many years and it became a huge West End hit as well.

Banbridge MS’s fairly standard set had an upper level walkway and central entrance below (through which the car and Teen Angel appeared). Props were minimal – canteen benched table, school cloakroom, bedroom furniture, burger bar etc. and the “Greased Lightning” car front which was nicely reversible from rusty old banger to shiny red dream machine!! Costumes were all authentic 1950s style and hairstyles for the girls at least, were suitable for the era. Sound was balanced and Lighting employed good individual pools of light and excellent blackouts.

Leading players in this production were Ethan Haddock as Danny Zuko and Lauren Hill as Sandy Dunbrowski. Experienced in both serious/dramatic roles and in comedy, Ethan looked as if he was relaxed and enjoying his role – playing someone his own age! He certainly looked the part with well greased hair, easily becoming “one of the boys” and also relating in suitably self-conscious way to girlfriend Sandy. Lauren made a pretty and naïve young Sandy until her transformation into Danny’s dream date where she performed “You’re the One that I Want” with him in time-honoured fashion! Her vocal style change from “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was well managed. Maille Conolly was Rizzo, the cynical leader of the “Pink Ladies’ – a challenging role which she coped with well – her rendition of “There are worse things I could do” was very powerful. Colm McBrien played tough guy Kenickie and showed his excitement at his investment in the car contrasting with his tempestuous relationship with Rizzo. He sensibly wore a base ball cap most of the time – his wig for the school dance was not good! Catherine McLaughlin was a self-confessed “thirty something year old” Jan – and why not? Stockard Channing was 33 when she played Rizzo in the Grease film! Jan was the quirky ‘Pink Lady’ who has a voracious appetite and Catherine took every opportunity to show that! She also had a good on-stage rapport with Ronan Sharkey as Roger, with whom she had to convey an awkward relationship. Roger was confident in his abilities and a bit of a show-off in his habit of ‘mooning’. Ronan has a good singing voice and surprised us all by demonstrating how to play Doody’s guitar. In contrast to other parts I have seen him play, Kyle Emerson played the childlike Doody with apparent ease, showing convincing embarrassment and difficulty when trying to impress his crush Frenchy. Unfortunately this role did not give any chance to show his fine bass voice. Aimee McVeigh was the unsuccessful student Frenchy – her wig really suited the character and helped to display the dippy but rather sad beauty school dropout. Final Pink Lady, Marty, showed herself to be experienced in wine, men and cigarettes – maybe all in her own imagination! A habitual flirt, she finally succumbed to the advances of Sonny (James McLoughlin) who imagined himself a bit of a catch but was really unsuccessful and unappealing. Niamh Walsh and Sam Farrell were fully committed to bringing out the comedy as Patty Simcox and Eugene Florczyk. Both “over the top”, Sam showed his inner ‘nerd’ and managed to always look really awkward while Niamh was over enthusiastic in everything she did! Kayla Lennon came forward to play Cha-Cha di Gregoria – the supposed dance expert who ends up winning the dance contest with Danny. Kayla was suitably OTT and unlovable – just right! Miss Lynch the Headteacher (Helena Hughes) strutted her stuff in typical spinster manner and Johnny Casino (David McClelland) tried to be “cool” and “get down with the kids” as did Paul Brown as Vince Fontaine. Finally Ruairi McAlinden gave a new approach to the character of the Teen Angel. His blunt advice to Frenchy was bestowed in hilarious fashion which was totally original! His featured dancers were delightful and, together with Chorus members, were always engaged and fully immersed in the action.

MD Niall headed up a 7 piece band who enjoyed their score of great 50s type music which is always a favourite with audiences. Ian Milford (who told me he had never seen ‘Grease”) had some original ideas in direction and the show moved apace – only slowing occasionally with scene changes. Lynn’s choreography was bright, fresh and well rehearsed.

I was so glad to see such a joyful production from BMS after a difficult and uncertain year. My thanks and congratulations to all concerned for their enthusiastic turnaround.