Grease

Date 3rd December 2013
Society University of Manchester Musical Theatre Society
Venue Club Academy, Students Union
Type of Production Musical
Director Melissa Lynn Price & Richard Smith
Musical Director Kieran Enticknap & Cillian Donaghy
Choreographer Phoebe Garratt

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

This production had been brought together with limited funds, presented in a restrictive performance area and in a tight time scale. When producing a big show with a large ensemble cast - tribulations such as these require the production team to take creativity to a whole new level.

Grease, being as commercial as it is, has certain expectations from its audience so some of the choices were quite daring; a very minimal set, no car, DIY costumes and limited technical facilities. UMMTS prove you don’t necessarily need the lavish budget and high end theatrical suppliers to pull off a mammoth show.

Kieran Enticknap (Musical Director) with Cillian Donaghy as his assistant had put together a strong sounding band. I understand it would have been wrong for them to do so but it is a shame with scores such as these if the musicians aren’t given enough opportunities to let rip, though completely understandable why they were held back by the MD being (practically) sat amongst the audience. The cast delivered some beautiful harmony work which was very nicely exposed in the ‘Alma Mater’ though, through the heavier orchestrated numbers it would have benefited if more mics had been spread amongst the cast to give the vocal ensemble a more balanced sound.

Direction by Melissa Lynn Price and (assistant) Richard Smith was brave. Their creativity was pushed to adapt this piece to make it work in the venue. Considering there was hardly any set to change, the transitions in between scenes were not as smooth or as quick as they could have been which did affect the shows flow.  These directors are comedy fans and made sure they found and exposed the humour in all the right places of the lib which was fittingly conveyed.

Frenchie was played by Lani Calvert who gave a very enjoyable performance! Lani had the dipsy airhead American stereotype characterisations nailed, parts like these can so often be grating or unnatural but we fell in love with her and she sent genuine surges of laughter through the audience, wonderful!

Natalia Schwartz gave us all the attributes of the no messing leader of the Pink Ladies - Rizzo, a well-rounded performance which was topped off with a mighty ‘There Are Worst Things I Could Do’, a very inspiring portrayal.

Choreography plays a heavy part in this show which was tackled head on by Phoebe Garratt. She’d created some nice pattern formations and had drilled her ensemble to deliver energetic and clean moves while, and rightly so, sticking to the recognisable, signature steps and gestures associated to Grease. For me, ‘Hand Jive’ was unquestionably Phoebe’s peak in this production.

Grease is an ensemble show and no one performer should take lead over another, the team essence was evident and the cast had a strong bond, everybody was having a blast both on and off the stage!

Congratulations UMMTS.