Review: Grease

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It’s Electrifying! Hild Bede Theatre Company’s production of the iconic musical Grease is a smashing success. A fantastic array of talent is on display as music, choreography, staging, and confident characterisation come together to create a strong opening number; the eponymous song ‘Grease’ hypes up the energy for the rest of the show from the moment the curtains open.

The set pieces, styling, and costuming create the classic scene of the American high school cliques. These elements of the show work to complement the commitment the actors bring to their roles. A perfect example of this is the directorial decision to make use of Caedmon Hall’s side stage in one of the show’s most memorable numbers, ‘Summer Nights’. The Pink Ladies are seated around the centre-stage table, whilst the T-Birds take over the bench on the side stage, putting them at an angle to both the audience and the pink ladies. This exemplifies the dynamic between the two groups and further works to elicit audience engagement and immersion. 

Compelling, camp, feel-good fun . . . Grease is most definitely The Word

Looking characteristically ‘greased’, the T-Birds have excellent on-stage chemistry. Their convincing portrayal of the group allows for their comedic moments to be met with laughter every time.  embodies the too-cool-for-school yet secretly sensitive persona of Danny Zuko to impressive levels. His every line and movement exude the confidence encompassed in the expected Zuko swagger. Playing fellow T-Bird Kenickie, George Cass gives a particularly strong vocal performance in ‘Greased Lightnin’, accompanied by Danny Zuko and the rest of their crew: Roger (Harry Allderidge), Doody (Dylan Morales) and Sonny (Jude Battersby).

As for the Pink Ladies:  positively shines as Sandy. With a voice like honey, she charms the audience with her smooth and powerful rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’. Rogers demonstrates Sandy’s demure nature at the beginning of the story as well as harnessing the much-needed confidence for her character transformation in ‘You’re The One That I Want’; truly a girl who can do both! Helena Ariaidis plays perfect nonchalance in her portrayal of Rizzo. From sass and sarcasm to sensitive and soulful, she shows expressive range culminating in her emotionally poignant performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’.

Particular acting mentions must also go to for his impeccable comedic timing in the role of Sonny. Likewise, to as Mrs Lynch, and to as Patty, who similarly bring easy laughter to the crowd. Also, to Eleanor Sumner who takes total command of the stage in her role of Teen Angel for ‘Beauty School Dropout’.

A fantastic array of talent is on display as music, choreography, staging, and confident characterisation come together to create a strong opening number

With the production taking place in Caedmon Hall, Co-Directors Jacob Vellucci and assisted by Midun Odunaiya and Ellie Malley, have the challenge of filling a large performance space in which atmosphere could easily become diluted. They rise to this occasion wonderfully; it is impressive how such a big stage always feels full! Even in the scenes of only one or two cast members, they direct the audience’s attention masterfully. This effect is also served by lighting of the show which perfectly captures the atmosphere of each and every scene.

Choreographer Francesca Horgan (assisted by Charlie Holliday) packs the show full of quick-footed moves and high-energy group numbers that make it hard to resist getting up and dancing along! Whilst the larger group numbers could perhaps benefit from a little more polish in terms of synchronicity, this does improve throughout, and the overall look is made no less impressive. A particular dance highlight is ‘Born To Hand Jive’ in which Danny Zuko (Jo Price) performs with Cha-Cha played by Connie Richardson; the pair feel almost professional!

Their convincing portrayal of the group allows for their comedic moments to be met with laughter every time

Scene changes could be a little smoother; this is understandable with big set pieces but could perhaps benefit from some cover-up or acting distraction. The powerful music from the band goes a long way to sustain immersion, however.

Credit must go to the Musical Director Dan Hicks (assisted by Issey Dodd) and the wonderful band for keeping power throughout which kept the show flowing nicely. 

Actors could do with a little more projection at times to avoid any lines getting lost in the large space and/or overpowered by the music. Whilst there were a few small mishaps with mics and set pieces, these ultimately were dealt with professionally and did not phase the actors nor detract from the show.

All-in-all, every element of this production comes together to put on a high-energy and high-quality show. Compelling, camp, feel-good fun. Grease is most definitely The Word.

Image credit: Hild Bede Theatre Company

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