Tuesday, 5 April 2016

"Grease" by Long Eaton Operatic Society
May Hall, Long Eaton

For me you'd have to do something really bad to spoil my enjoyment of this fun musical. Long Eaton Operatic Society (LEOS) did the exact opposite, they hardly put a crepe shoed foot wrong here.

Director Adam Guest really did his homework with this production and presented a version of the original stage musical version, as opposed to the film version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I've seen a few versions of "Grease" over the last 12 months or so and all of them have been based on the film, so it was nice to get a fresh version of the musical. All the bits that make "Grease" a brilliant musical are there but sometimes not in the order that you remember from the film, keeping you on your toes a bit. Mr Guest managed to create an atmosphere of the 50's and 60's beautifully and retained all the youthfulness of the two main camps; the T Birds and the Pink Ladies.

The ages of the cast practically matched the age of the characters which instantly made the characters believable. I don't need to precis the story because everyone knows the story of "Grease", so let's concentrate on the stars of the show. Believe me that doesn't narrow anything down because the main actors and the ensemble actors seamlessly merged to create a wonderfully strong powerhouse of a cast.

From the opening number of the Rydell High Alma Mater, showing many of the male characters acting as if there were a million other places they would rather be, notably Lewis Haycock as Sonny and Jack Draper as Roger. Such little things as this makes the show a joy because you can put yourself in their place. i just go back to our class assembly to recall their reactions.

The male group of the play, The T Birds, were so strong; the teasing and the actions of teenagers from the era were great fun to see and this lot created a tour de force of testosterone fuelled youth. Zach Foster (Kenicke), George Mercer (Doody), Lewis and Jack formed the "gang" with leader Danny Zuko, played by George Groom.

George played Danny's character just right, sensitive while with Sandy but, afraid of letting the macho image of the T Bird leader down, morphing into the tough guy. leaving poor Sandy confused and angry at his attitude. And that is what george had plenty of, attitude, which is what makes a great Danny Zuko. He steered away from dumbing down the character and brought out the fun, typical teenage side of Zuko. Brilliant singing as well which included a remorse laden version of "Sandy", in fact one of the best amateur versions of that song I've experienced.

Loved George Mercer's role of Doody. Gung ho all the way and a brilliantly entertaining version of "Those Magic Changes".

Lewis, Zach and Jack were perfectly cast and provided a solid back up vocal wise and dance wise.

Sandy was played by Lydia Thacker, and even though I have seen "Grease" so many times over the years, the transformation from twee, virginal, albeit quite feisty Sandra Dee to sex kitten Sandy made my jaw drop. i could almost hear me saying "WOW!" in my head. It takes a brilliant production to create that sort of reaction from such a well worn piece of theatre, but that was the effect it had on me. Beautifully played from start to end.

Also loved Emily Corner (Rizzo), just aloof enough to show the character as being just a wee bit more mature than the other characters, and when Emily sung, what is my favourite song from the play, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do", the hair on my neck stood up. What emotion, what a performance.

Loved Karen Woodhead (Frenchy); the ever so slightly ditsy beauty school dropout, her dizziness was great fun to see..

Karen MacDonald (Jan), Rachelle Bragg (Marty) and Georgia Archer (Patty) again a dream casting for the trio of Pink Ladies.

Rob Chilton as Eugene was delightfully awkward, and even as a secondary character, he shone through, as did all of the minor roles. Angela Walters as Miss Lynch,Jason Parker as Vince Fontaine - the radio presenter, smooth and sleazy with it. Kheenan Jones as Jonny Casino and Abigail Pidgeon as Cha Cha.

i love it when a role is updated but isn't ruined by the update and Andrew Bould, who played Teen Angel, complete with great white staircase, delivered a different vocal slant on the song "Beauty School Dropout". Picture if you can Sam Smith in this role and that is what Andrew delivered. I'm not a massive fan of vocal acrobatics where they aren't needed but Andrew got the falsetto acrobatics spot on. he also received one of the biggest round of applause for being an absolute professional trooper when the fog machine decided to go into overdrive and swamped the stage and half of the theatre with it. What a star, especially when he had to deliver the line straight after which included the word "misty".

The orchestra, under the musical direction of Charlotte Daniel complemented the singers well and didn't try and overpower them, creating a nice comfortable mix. very good effective lighting courtesy of Tom and Laura Olding. Wonderful colourful costumes for all which made for a very visual experience. The choreography was excellent and exciting and all the hard work of Sian Scattergood, this being her choreography debut for LEOS. All the cast embraced the choreography completely and looked like they enjoyed every single minute of the show.

LEOS are such a hard working team and we must not forget everyone who works behind the scenes as well as front of house to make a visit to any LEOS show an absolute joy for regulars as well as first time LEOS theatre goers.

I left on an absolute high, so if you want to experience the same, then get down to May Hall, Trent College in Long Eaton as "Grease" is on until Saturday 9 April 2016; but don't hang around because tonight was sold out and I have a feeling with such class and talent on show, you'll be lucky to get a ticket, but do try.

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