Grease

Date 28th October 2021
Society Bedford Marianettes
Venue Trinity Arts Theatre Bedford
Type of Production Musical
Director Charlotte Pearson
Musical Director Tim Dawes
Choreographer Tara Hutchings
Producer Cheryll Wilson

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

You'd think wouldn't you that coming out of a major disruption to everyday life with an uncertain future ahead, that the sensible option would be to choose a small show, easily rehearsed, requiring a small flexible cast and few resources. Well yes, but then you wouldn't belong to Bedford Marianettes, who are made of sterner stuff and who it appears love a challenge. So, instead they chose a full-on musical with a cast numbering in the twenties, requiring hours of face to face rehearsal, intricate coordinated dance moves and complicated music. And so their production of Grease was born. Cast entirely over the Internet, using Zoom during the first lockdown in April 2020 and rehearsed in the face of ever-changing government regulations, with the inventive use of parks, gardens and car parks. Eighteen months later, despite all the problems they must have faced, here we were at The Trinity Arts Centre in Bedford to watch the final result in front of a full house. And oh boy, it was certainly worth the effort.

At least the set was simplicity itself, and in the experienced hands of stage manager, Steve Ward entirely appropriate, consisting of two sets of three tiered benches, a set of lockers stage left and a magnificent cut down car initially hidden under a cloth until 'Grease Lightning' was ready to show its teeth. Since the music was sequenced, no allowance needed to be made to fit a band so the whole stage was able to be used for the routines to come.

I've never liked the acoustics at Trinity Arts and have commented before that it took Marianettes a couple of shows to get it right, and it did take me the opening number to once again get myself attuned, by which time Al Wilmott had it pretty spot on, and after that I never gave it another thought. Can't say I gave the lighting much thought at all, which I always think is the highest compliment you can pay. So well done to Lloyd Grey on that one. Nice job gentlemen!

There was no accreditation in the programme for costumes, but I was later told that they were in fact coordinated by Rosie Layton, who also hand made the Teen Angel/ beauty school drop out costumes as well as the Pink Ladies Jackets and cheerleader uniforms. And for that she certainly needs a pat on the back, brilliant job!

Grease is the musical - perhaps made more familiar by the 1978 film of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - so whilst no synopsis is really necessary - Grease is the story of Sandy and Danny who spend the summer together knowing it will only ever be a summer romance as Sandy is leaving at the end of the summer holidays - only she doesn't and when she meets Danny again at Rydell High - he is now firmly back with the T Birds and showing all the teenage male bravado of not wanting to show his softer inner side to his friends.  Meanwhile Sandy is adopted by the Pink Ladies who are taking her from shy introverted schoolgirl to blonde bombshell

Danny played by Adam Ledger - amazingly his first foray into the performing arts and what a debut – clear, precise - he perfectly captured the angst of the character of Danny fighting the inner turmoil of both wanting to be with Sandy whilst still being one of the boys

Sandy played by Megan Prosser captured the innocence of the character as we see her grow in confidence and follow her journey of first heartache to blonde bombshell via a little alcohol, ear piercings and drive-ins.

Kenickie captured beautifully by Frazer McDonald, a Bedford Marianettes stalwart was every bit the bad boy with a heart of gold as he pimps up his first car Greased Lightning and we follow his budding relationship with Rizzo. Took me a moment or two to recognise him under that wonderful styled wig.

Rizzo in the hands of the very experienced Kate Brewster was an emotional rollercoaster as she navigated a pregnancy scare and the highs and lows of her relationship with Kenickie.

Roger, played by Sam Stevens, certainly provided plenty of laughs starting with his nickname of 'Rump.' A very stong performance, to me his performance was the basis that gave the T-Birds their collective character.

Doody, played by Musical Director Tim Dawes is the youngest and very much looks up to the rest of the gang, whilst Sonny, Robert Greenhouse, whose character rather fancies himself took a lot of physical abuse as he constantly pushed around by Kenickie in particular.

Jasmine Heath, as Jan innocently dressed in those wonderful pigtails ate her way through the show much to our delight, whilst Giulia Cestaro certainly made an impression as the sophisticated Marty with as many boyfriends/penpals as any girl could wish for – her rendition of Freddy My Love was a particular highlight

I leave the best till last. Tara Hutchings, not only played the good natured but slightly dumb Frenchy to a tee, but was the person behind what makes this show work so well, the unbelievably well designed, coordinated and performed choreography! The hand movements in particular were a work of genius. I really can't praise her highly enough for this piece of work. It certainly helps to have as strong a cast as this but the dancing was just sheer delight to watch and so in time!!

The supporting cast weren’t exactly second rate either. Strong performances from Cheryll Wilson (Patty), Steve Duncombe-Cooper (Johnny Casino), Tara May (Teen Angel – loved the dress!), Phillip Smith as the put-upon Eugene, Marley Upton (a very smarmy Vince Fontaine) A lovely little cameo by Chrystal Day as Miss Lynch and Annalise Carter as Cha Cha Digregorio, great dancing!

And finally for the ensemble – Great support from Lucy Bichener, Ester Walker-Lea, Rosie Layton and Javai James, a talented young man whose career we have been following from Castle Newnham School, great to see him performing on the adult stage!

The harmony’s in this show are its musical style and, together with the choreography, the make of break of the production. Musical Director Tim Dawes is the man behind the hard work in bringing them to life and deserves high praise indeed for doing so. Great work sir!

So Director Charlotte Pearson really should be very proud of this show, not only was it spectacularly well done, but the lady even managed to have her first child at the end of 2020! How on earth she managed to juggle rehearsals and motherhood together in the middle of a pandemic, goodness only knows and  deserves a medal in its own right!