"GREASE" by The NTU Drama Society.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
It's always going to be difficult to emulate a well loved hit musical film on stage, but as the film originally started off as a stage production, it was a return to the original format, and you know what, even without the famous car race and the end scene at the fairground with the car that takes off into the hemisphere, this is still a great feel good production.
The Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Drama Society have done a sterling job with this production and they have an amazing set, which really hits you as soon as you walk into the theatre space. well designed as well because most of the set, bar a few props and Kenicke's car, are all actually all within the set on stage. A bit like a banana skin that you just keep peeling back to reveal more and more. A clever idea by the set designers, who unfortunately I couldn't see mentioned in the programme, but a brilliant job was done by all involved in the set.
We all know what to expect from "Grease" so I don't really need to tell the story of the musical. What I can tell you is that this talented group manage to encapsulate the whole feel of the era, 1959, and of the "belonging" to the separate gangs, The "T Birds", the leather jacketed "lads" gang and the "Pink Ladies", the all more refined collection of ladies who have sleep over parties and discuss the teen idols of the day and make up.
It's a large but tight cast with some good stand out principal performances as well as excellent support roles. Chris Turner, as Danny Zuko role played it for laughs with not so much arrogance, which is what John Travolta's film version could have done with. Chris's version depicted Zuko as a bit of a goofball with just a bit of arrogance, which I liked better, he made it more of a comical role. there may have been a few bum notes here and there but it certainly did not detract from a solid performance from Chris.
Sandy, the role made famous in the film by Olivia Newton-John, was played by Amy Mallaband. The innocent college girl turned ultimate temptress and what a voice she has; a lovely rendition of "Hopelessly Devoted To You".
The "cool guy" of the movie wasn't Zuko for me but Kenicke, the worldly player but I felt Jeff Conway in the film didn't quite corner the "cool" of the character, unlike Leon Dominique in this production. Leon played Kenicke as a true player, slightly aloof, a lovely character driven performance.
I always had a bit of a soft spot for Rizzo in the film and same here in this performance. Rizzo was never really the tough nut she tried to be and scratch that surface and there is this lovely soft and frightened side, a girl just wanting to be loved and both sides were shown in a lovely performance by Lucy Miller. Oh and what a spine tingling version of "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" by Lucy. What a voice!
The rest of the two gangs were equally as capable and a joy to watch, Sam Bailey (Roger), Joe Hayes (Sonny), Bertie Drew (Doody), Katie Barnard (Frenchy), Helen Smurthwaite (Marty), Bethany Milnes (Jan) and a nice cameo Teen Angel by Emma McGuinness, played in the film by Frankie Avalon but tonight a nice change to hear "Beauty School Dropout" sung so wonderfully by a female voice. Emma also shared choreography for this show with Grace Nelder. Cracking job done by these two.
Minor roles were played by Ellie Rice (Patty), Mary Squib (Miss Lynch), Kirk Evans ( Vince Fontaine), Annie Johnstone (Jenny), Laura Simpson (Cha Cha), Sarah Shields as the voice on the radio and who can forget Ruairi Blake who not only played the ultimate geek Eugene. Ruairi also shared co directing with Alice Grieves.
A brilliant band, again under co musical direction of Shirin Marashi and Matt Spurr. A clear, powerful sound beefed up by a brilliant drummer in Chris Smith, who really lets rip on "Born To Hand Jive".
C'mon what is not to like about this fun musical. We all knew the songs, most of the hits came in act 2. Songs like "You're The One That I Want", "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightning", "We Go Together", "Grease", they are all there with a few not as memorable songs from the original film.
Really chuffed to see the theatre almost full for this great musical and a wonderful set of multi talented people, and I don't think there are many tickets left for Saturday night, which is when the run ends.