Saturday, 15 August 2015

"Grease" School Edition
Nottingham Playhouse Summer School

You can't beat a good dollop of grease to get the weekend wheels turning. And how true this turned out to be this evening at the Neville Studios at Nottingham Playhouse for the Playhouse Summer School.

This scheme invites youngsters to take part in every role in putting on a musical in a limited time. From stage management to lighting, direction, sets and of course the performance, there's something for any youngster who wants to be involved in theatre at any level. What a great grounding and I wish there had been something like this when I was young(er).

Directed by Allie Spencer and choreographed by Amanda Hall, along with a multitude of very talented people who worked behind the scenes, tonight saw the fourth performance in two days by even more very talented people.

There were familiar faces among the cast. Familiar if, like myself, you take an interest in local amateur theatre. Cassie Hall (Kenickie), Matty Collins who was part of the ensemble as well as helped move various parts of the sets and props on and off stage, Oliver Wheddon who doubled as Roger (the mooner),one of the T Birds and Teen Angel. Oliver had a couple of numbers in the show, "Mooning" and "Beauty School Dropout", giving him the chance to show off a fine falsetto. Can I also say that Oliver's honed his dancing skills to produce an able bit of footwork. A couple of years ago he told me that dancing was not his strong point, but two years on you can see an improvement.

Eva Sheppard took the lead female role of Sandy, the prim prom girl who changed her whole image to bag Danny Zuko. I've watched Eva over the years grow into a credible singer and actor as well as a competent dancer. All of these talents shown to full effect in this production.

Danny Zuko was played by Stan Cook, a newcomer to me,and he did a cracking job. Not as arrogant as the Travolta version but enjoyable to see the confidence in Stan's version of Zuko. A commercial, and pleasant singing voice, with a few more musicals under his belt, It was nice to hear that his version of "Sandy" wasn't shouty, as I've heard in the past in other productions over the years, and neither was it clipped as in the film version. Stan extended slightly the ends to the lyrics so as not to make it sounded so stunted and I liked that, again making a good song more commercial, technically.

What I also love about these school editions is that you can see the enjoyment those taking part in their faces, and that was evident in this show. It's a great modern musical, everyone knows every song, it's fun, it's colourful and these kids exuded an air of enjoyment and fun, and that's what spreads from the stage to the audience.

Loved Kenzie Barrow as Vince Fontaine, the DJ. he completely threw away the smarmy silky smooth "radio DJ" voice of the era and gave Fontaine a more human voice inflected with fun. This also came across when Vince Fontaine appeared at the "hop". "Fun" must be Kenzie's middle name because even when involved in the ensemble parts, he spread that happiness vibe in his face. Thanks for making me smile, Kenzie.

I'd love to mention all 31 of the cast as they pulled together, in a very short time, and produced a brilliant fun filled musical. their exuberance and passion spread like an infection and I didn't see one person in the Neville Studios who didn't leave with a smile on their face.

There was also a live trio of musicians, complete in dinner jackets, providing the music. A nice touch as this would have been the norm for the 1950's period in which the musical was set. Vic "sticks" Poole, Brian Humpherson and David Hails backed the singers and provided incidental music during the set and props manoeuvres.

Livelier than a bag o kittens with some classic songs was this production, "Greased Lightning", "Summer Nights". "You're The One That I Want", "Grease", "We Go Together", "Sandy", "Hopelessly Devoted To You" all rolled out with gusto. Unfortunately my favourite of the "Grease" songs, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" was not included, but I could see why due the context of that song in the film wouldn't sit right within the School Edition format here.

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