Saturday, 27 June 2015

"Grease" at Loughborough Town Hall
by Bright Lights Theatre School.

My first experience of this group and what an aptly titled theatre school because there were many bright lights on stage this afternoon; not shining on the stage but shining from the stage.

With an age range from 4 to 18 this large cast showed a little bit of nerves to start with, but then again which actor on their opening performance wouldn't, They soon got into their stride to deliver a strong and confident performance of one of the worlds best loved of the modern musicals. There were a couple of missed music cues but what struck me was the professionalism of the young actors as they found their cue for the following line and ran with it.

The ensemble gave great support to the main characters and it was lovely to see the enjoyment on the younger actors' faces during the dance routines and when giving their final bows. Such a show of confidence at such tender years should be, and was, applauded.

And so to the leads Danny and Sandy. Danny Zuko was played by Harrison Lightowler, who embraced the dancing and singing with great vigour. I am one for characterization and this boy played out the high school "jock" as a jack the lad with less arrogance but a great deal of confidence, and made Zuko as a slightly more intelligent, or maybe less goofy, version of the screen character, which in turn I felt made Danny Zuko easier to warm to. Harrison's facial expressions were good to note as well because sometimes younger actors can have a limited range of expressions but Harrison captured the light and shade of Zuko really well.

Sandy, the Olivia Newton-John role, was played by Sophie Draycott and what a lovely expressive voice she has. Her versions of "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and the reprise of "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee" sent shivers up my spine. And what a transformation from college girl to sexy leather clad bombshell! No wonder Harrison's Danny seemed lost for words!

Lots of really strong performances but I must mention a few more who I especially enjoyed watching. Keisha Richards (Rizzo) gave an amazingly mature performance throughout and has a great voice for musicals. When she sung "There Are Worse Things I Could Do", which in my humble opinion is one of the most under rated songs from a musical, you really felt what she was going through. A definite highlight.

Billy Harris ( Doody) has a future in comedy characters. He really made me smile at his goofiness. Daniel Robinson (Johnny Casino and Teen Angel) absolutely nailed Teen Angel, and could be the best version I've seen at amateur level. Good, strong, powerful voice, mixed with a bit of cheeky humour attracted a loud round of applause from the very appreciative audience as he ended his "Beauty School Dropout" section.

Emily Brewin (Frenchy) also embraced the character of the highly pitched beauty school dropout who was just a little slow on the uptake, but a lovely character part for Emily.

The other Brewin in the cast, Zak, also presented a great characterization of Kenicke, with just the right amount of arrogance. His shining moment is of course the song "Greased Lightning", which he and the cast really embraced and again drew a massive appreciation from the audience. And a great stage car as well!

These are just a few of the actors, but there was not one person on that stage that didn't win my appreciation, admiration and applause.

There's a lot of,sometimes complicated choreography in this show, but excellently done by Nick Sutcliffe with additional help from Mary Garbe and Cara Dudgeon, who also did a good job with the musical direction of the show. The enthusiasm of the whole cast with this choreography shone all the way through.

It's nice to think that I could be watching some of the future professional musical theatre actors on that stage and if they carry on with the enthusiasm, talent, and gusto shown today, I've no doubt that in years to come some of these young actors from Bright Lights will themselves have their name in bright lights.

A fun couple of hours with some really talented young people. We all knew the songs and there was not one person who didn't leave the theatre without a smile on their faces. A job done well by everyone involved.

"Grease" is on at Loughborough Town Hall until Sunday 28th June 2015.

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