Grease

Date 28th February 2020
Society Morecambe Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Lancaster Grand
Type of Production Musical
Director James Shields
Musical Director Joanna Jeffreys
Choreographer Sophie Butler

Report

Author: Martin Craig

Grease- set in the 50’s , follows the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high school kids in their last year leading up to their graduating from Rydell High School. Danny Zuko returns from vacation after a holiday romance with Sandy Dumbrowski- unbeknownst to Danny, Sandy has now become a student at Rydell High. When Danny first bumps into Sandy (Stage managed by Rizzo and her Pink Ladies), we find that the sensitive, caring Danny who Sandy met, is more interested in being cool in front of his gang- the “T-Birds”. Thus ensues a story of love, teenage pregnancy, teenage peer pressure and teenage angst, all set to musical numbers such as Sandy, We Go Together, Summer Nights, Greased Lightning to name but a few- basically, if you`ve never heard of them, or the show- Where have you been for the last forty two years?

One of the things with the show itself, is that the whole group needs to work as a team, the “men” are individual representations of each facet of a teenage boy growing up- with each of them being a cliché of those facets- the cool guy,  the wanabe, the nerd, the prankster, the raging hormone and the would be pop star. With the girls, it`s different as the characters are layered-also a cliché, but with a depth and a heart.

The T- Birds, Kenickie, Doody, Sonny and Roger were all played well by Thomas Ledsham, Mathew Eaton, Dylan Bell and Karl Roe.

Thomas’s Kenickie had the required swagger, Mathew’s vocals convinced both the audience and the ladies that he could be a star in spite of only knowing a couple of chords on the guitar (hey- it worked for Status Quo), age appropriate Dylan Bell looked and acted the part, with his raging hormones and attempted coolness coming across well as Sonny. Karl Roe’s Roger was, for me, my favourite T-Bird- a bit “off the wall” and slightly eccentric as Roger, but the masterstroke here, was casting him opposite Francesca Marriner as Jan. These two bounced off each other perfectly- both showing great comic timing and a good rapport between them.

Susie Romaniuk, Anna Webster, Tracy Blenkinship, Stephanie Mason and Anna Winstanly had the unenviable task of bringing  Rizzo, Frenchy, Marty, Patty and ChaCha  to life.

Susie`s characterisation of the Pink Ladies Leader, Rizzo was spot on. Hard faced bitch one minute, vulnerable the next- managing to have the audience both pity her and hate her in equal measure. Her powerful rendition of “There are worse things I can do” was delivered with veracity and sentiment..

Anna Webster’s inept beautician Frenchy was executed perfectly, immediately gaining the audience’s sympathy and having them in the palm of her hand in every scene she was involved in.

Tracy Blenkinship came over well as the wanabe leader of the Pink Ladies, Marty. Expert in men, wine, cigarettes and men (not necessarily in that order, nor in the character’s reality one suspects), Tracy’s Marty was as vacuous and shallow as the character requires.

Stephanie Mason was perfect as Patty Simcox the cheesy do-good cheerleader, and played up to the role as Rizzo’s thorn in her side marvellously, a perfect mirror of Cameron Isherwood’s nerdy Eugene.

Anna Winstanley step ball changed her way through the role of Cha Cha, the dance expert who wins the dance contest with Danny- perfectly over the top and suitably unloved- just like the character should be (although the flowers in her wig did make her look as though she had horns)

The leading Roles of Danny and Sandy were undertaken by Charlie Edwards and Kate Bowskill. Charlie managed to capture the duality of the role well, his “too cool for school” attitude and his awkwardness both delivered with equal zeal, taking on the well-known songs with confidence and ease, the duets between him and Sandy were top notch.

This brings is to Sandy- simply put, Kate Bowskill WAS Sandy. Not just in looks and movement, but also her characterisation of the role. Kate`s singing in all of Sandy’s numbers was strong and powerful, even at the limits of her range, Kate was confident in her abilities. The transition from girl next door to sultry siren accomplished with ease, and she carried the audience with her throughout the show. Well done

The “adults” were undertaken by Gail Bowskill as the strait laced Mrs Lynch and Ceri Hamer as her sidekick, Blanche. Both excellent foils together and pulling everything they could from their roles.

The incredibly smooth Vince Fontane was well played by Mike Zorab, though at certain points when entering with his mike, I’d like him to have looked out to the audience rather than watching the action onstage. Personally, I felt it took the eye away from him to see what he was looking at, when all eyes should really have been on him. Matt Armistead`s Johnny Casino kept the action going with a swing and was definitely born to hand jive. Hannah Morris`s vocals in “It’s Raining on Prom Night” were exquisite, and judging by the comments I overheard afterwards, I was not the only one who thought that.

What is Grease without a Teen Angel? Chris Isherwood’s sublime Teen Angel, and the scene accompanying it almost stole the show for me. Never being afraid to laugh at himself Chris milked the role for all his worth, and it worked brilliantly.

From the opening number ‘til curtain down, the enthusiasm and infectious joy from the chorus spread through the audience, and had them singing and clapping along (especially the two noisy ones sat behind us, who chatted and sang throughout the whole show).

One thing I will have to say though, and it`s probably the elephant in the room, is that time and tide wait for no man…….. neither do teenage roles. Whilst the Pink Ladies could just about get away with playing overly made up wise ass High School Seniors, it really was stretching the imagination to say that the guys could get away with it (except Sonny and Eugene). That said, the audience, even whilst commenting on it, enjoyed the show.

Staging wasn’t overly complicated, but worked well. A fixed set of Tiered seating with flats and larger props depicting different locations, with sound and lighting complimentary to the piece.

Sophie Butler’s choreography was really good, and reflective of the time in which the show is set.

Musical Director Joanna Jeffreys had obviously worked hard with both the cast and orchestra, who, even through adversity ensured that the show went on.

James Shields as Director must be really pleased with what he, and the cast accomplished with this show- a good fun night out had by everyone.

Thank you MAODS, for your invite and hospitality