Grease

Date 23rd March 2023
Society CODY Musical Theatre Company
Venue Princes Hall, Aldershot
Type of Production Musical
Director Sue Sampson
Musical Director Graham Hix
Choreographer Sue Canfield

Report

Author: Jane Turner

Grease is a nostalgic trip down memory lane to 1950s' High School America.  Based on Warren Casey’s and Jim Jacobs’s 1971 musical, the film was released in 1978 starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and was successful both critically and at the box office.  It is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978. 

The story line is fairly thin but this is more than made up for by the sheer exuberance, colour, singing and dancing by the whole cast.  Danny meets Sandy during the holidays on the beach and they fall in love.   Cut to Rydell High School at the beginning of term where Danny and Sandy are surprised to meet each other again but the path of young love is not always straightforward, which we discover as the play progresses.  Danny is forced to keep up his ‘bad boy’ attitude in front of his friends and gang members, the Burger Palace Boys, upsetting Sandy.  The girls’ gang is The Pink Ladies, who take Sandy under their wing and try to initiate her into their innocently wicked ways – smoking and drinking.  The gang setup is reminiscent of West Side Story but doesn’t play such an important part.

After a number of plot twists and turns and adventures, the night of the big school dance competition arrives which is won by Danny dancing with his dance partner Cha Cha, leaving Sandy alone and miserable in her bedroom.  Danny tries to make it up to her by taking her to a drive-in movie but Sandy bolts after he tries to make a pass at her.  She has a heart-to-heart with Rizzo who thinks she is pregnant and then decides she must change her image.  The next time we see her, hey presto – the new Sandy emerges in tight black leather trousers and jacket.  (Legend has it that Newton-John had to be sewn into the trousers when a zip broke!)  I had a double take wondering whether I was seeing a reincarnated Olivia Newton-John on stage!  Inevitably it all ends happily – they all end up with their chosen partners, Rizzo isn’t pregnant, and the final chorus with the whole cast on stage is a rousing end to the show.

Arran Treacher-Evans as Danny and Lucy Egan as Sandy were perfect in their roles.  Treacher-Evans had all the swagger evocative of John Travolta (it’s difficult not to compare!) and Egan portrayed at first the shyness and innocence of her character before turning into the sexy siren at the end.  Christine Siddall as Miss Lynch, the English teacher, came across as trying to be ‘normal’ among all the mayhem.  Graham McCarron-Wright as Teen Angel was hilarious and Richard Young as DJ Vince Fontaine suitably smarmy and smug.  In fact, under the Direction of Sue Sampson, all the cast members played their parts to perfection and it’s impossible to single them out individually.  A fantastic job was done with the casting, picking the right people for every role.

The lighting was effective and follow spots were well used to highlight different scenes or performers on stage at the same time.  The costumes fitted exactly with the period.  How many of us remember the belted waists and full skirts, with flat shoes and bobby socks!  With such an enormous cast, Costume Manager Claire Ilett and her team had their work cut out.  Well done to them.  I loved the dream scene with Graham McCarron-Wright as Teen Angel with his outrageously enormous wings, and the energetic cheer leaders with their pompoms.  Sandy’s costume for the final scene was a triumph and had the audience gasping.  To train such a huge cast is not easy and congratulations to Sue Canfield for her creative choreography with the superb group numbers.  The iconic duet between Danny and Sandy at the end, You’re The One That I Want, lacked nothing.

The whole of the large stage was used to great effect.  Graham Hix is to be congratulated for his musical direction.  He filled the Hall with the sound of his musicians but at no time did they overshadow the singers who were clearly audible throughout.

This was a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs, colourful and authentic costumes, good set, appropriate props – loved Greased Lightning!  All in all, what’s not to like!  Congratulations to the Directorial team, the cast and crew on a thoroughly enjoyable and exuberant production.