Date 13th June 2014
Society New Mills Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue New Mills Arts Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Martyn Preston
Musical Director Tim Walker
Choreographer Angela Draper


Author: Kevin Proctor

The movie of ‘Grease’ which debuted in 1978 soon became a Hollywood hit with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as the leads in this multi-award winning feature.  The story-line of Grease takes place in 1959 around the fictitious Rydell High School, where its main character, Danny Zuko, believes he’s the coolest guy in school and puts his reputation on the line to woo the new girl in town; the shy and sweet Sandy. 

For a community theatre group committee, ‘Grease’ is a winning choice in many aspects but the main, most attractive virtue to accompany this title is how it manages to pull in the crowds!

Technically, the sound did cause a few problems; in some numbers the band drowned out the vocals yet in other numbers you could hardly hear the band at all which was a tremendous shame. Personally, I feel it was a mistake to have the band at the back of the stage rather than in the pit - in previous New Mills shows, the sound from the band has been one of the more virtuous factors to your productions but shifting them seems to have caused problems in something which really didn’t need fixing.

The dialogue in the scenes wasn't as fluid or as punchy as it should have been, stuttering over words raises the question whether people have spent enough time studying their lines, you can forgive actors for tripping over their dialogue on an opening night ….but for a Friday, it’s slightly less easy to do.  The T-bird gang would have benefited with more physical and vocal energy to accompany their dialogue/banter - I got the impression they were over concentrating on playing ‘cool’ that the crucial lively energy struggled to come through.

I always prefer to be sat in the circle as I find I can appreciate choreography patterns and get the clearest and overall perspective of the entire show; however, at the start of the Act II almost an entire number was staged in the aisles of the stalls which left the punters in the circle looking at a dead stage, missing everything that what was happening!

The Choreography by Angela Draper was the making of the show as it was interesting, energetic, well drilled and exciting. ‘Born To Hand Jive’ and ‘Greased Lightnin’ were my top two highlights for the production; the pas de deux between Cha-Cha and Danny was full of life with some well-staged lift work which looked terrific, the guys movement and acrobatic stunts in ‘Greased Lightnin’ was striking and accentuated one of the show’s most iconic signature songs - undoubtedly, I have to admit that this show belonged to the choreographer, an awesome job! Well done!

A bug bare of mine is Tattoos being on show, especially if they’re out of period! Ciaran Ashton (Danny) had a large tattoo on his thigh (which was unnecessarily exposed) and one of the burger boys was practically a walking canvas of ink art – both of which would not have been seen in this period and even more grating is how both could have so easily been covered with good make up (should the skin need to be visual) or by a different costume option – long sleeves / long bottoms.

Kenickie was given a clear presence accompanied with vivid dance ability by Nick Ward.
Amy McDonough as Rizzo underplayed the role which exposed  the characters dark underlining tone working really nicely as a build up to her delivery of ‘Worst Things’ which rounded off this characters journey really nicely, I found a lovely quality was exposed through Amy’s performance.

Presenting well  was Jessica Holman as Sandy who certainly looked the part and suited both of the required sides to the role; the sweet and innocent girl-next-door side to her which we see for the shows majority and then the iconic transformation into the sexy, racy and provocative Sandy. I find with productions of ‘Grease’ that Sandy either suits one or the other but Jessica was equally convincing as both.  Cathryn Yates brought a great supporting / comedy offering to the table as Jan, she delivered mounds of energy and caused several genuine chuckles throughout the auditorium.

Vocally, out of the gents, coming out on top was Dom Dunne’s rendition of ‘Mooning’ which had an unexpected richness and tone. As for the ladies, Jennifer Savill’s ‘Freddy My Love’ was delivered to the required level though Amy’s ‘Worst Things I Could Do’ was the pinnacle for me.

Each time I visit New Mills society, the standard and quality of the productions continue to improve, making all the right steps which are certainly going in the right direction! Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing behind the scenes as it really is paying off.