Wednesday, 1 June 2016

"Grease" by Carlton Operatic Society.
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
I could have written this review without seeing it because of the calibre of people involved and the history of the Carlton Operatic Society, but then I wouldn't have had the utter pleasure of the good gushing that is following.
Imagine a good basic burger that you've enjoyed for years and then add a slice of mature cheese, bacon, relish and side salad. How scrummy and enjoyable is that? Well that's the analogy for tonight's performance.
I love "Grease" because it's such a fun, fluffy musical that everyone knows; great songs and a happy ending with loads of great comedy lines. In the directorial hands of Amanda Hall and her incredibly talented cast and crew, this musical has been escalated to another level of fun and enjoyment.
I know not if I've missed some of the lines in other productions, maybe due to sound issues or whatever, but there seemed to be lines here that I hadn't noticed before. Comedy lines I couldn't remember which now brought a new sense of fun to the show. But then again this is the stage version and not solely based on the film version.
A massive cast with a mix of debut performances and established board-treaders who merged so well that you wouldn't be able to tell the newbies from the rest; so professionally good was this cast. This shows what a brilliant relationship this group have away from the stage for it to spill over into the on stage performance and inter character relationships, making the whole cast 100% believable.
There are so many people to mention who brought this show to fruition. Let's start with the amazing cast.
Mark C-Bainbridge as Danny Zuko, almost unrecognisable without his facial hair and with the "D.A." hair style. Another faultless performance for Mark and I was so happy that, in his solo numbers, he didn't go over the top, and his rendition, especially of "Sandy", was just like the soundtrack. Completely controlled, as was all of his vocals, and he played Zuko as a lovable college jock.
Catherine Cunningham (Sandy), again spot on with her version of the naive pussycat who was transformed into the sexy tiger. Catherine's "Hopelessly Devoted" was a full production with backing vocals and a much fuller orchestral sound, and the sound I'll get on to later. Another classy vocal performer.
The T Birds, Patrick McChrystal (Doody), Liam Hall (Roger),Sam Hutchinson (Kenicke) and Paice Lees (Sonny) formed a wonderful supporting cast and, as only to be expected, provided some great backing vocals, and nice to hear Liam with a solo singing part.
Loved the almost dreamlike sequence section with Doody singing "Those Magic Changes" with the backing singers and the glittery back drop and lighting plus the look on Sonny's face of disbelief at the glittery scene change is something to watch for.
Mirroring the T Birds are the equally good Pink Ladies, Judie Matthews (Rizzo), Sarah Millington (Frenchy), Aston Fisher (Jan) and Abby Wells (Marty). A brilliant support but I must mention Judie's "There Are Worse Things I Could Do". This is one of my favourite songs from the musical and the passion behind her voice just sent the shivers up my back and neck. Just gorgeous.
i always look forward to seeing "Teen Angel" and over the years this role has varied and has been changed somewhat vocally. Matt Wesson has now topped the previous roles I've seen, all of which I have enjoyed but Matt took this role through the roof. His voice is amazing; it's soulful, bluesy and ending up with a gospel feel with audience participation call and response, he just blew me away. I think his ambition to appear in the West End singing in "Les Miserables" is not an impossible one after this performance, hopefully though not before he has put in more performances in Nottingham.
Ross Lowe (Vince Fontaine) got this role just right as the egotistical local celebrity DJ (I've made notes for my own personal use, Ross).
Putting a smile on everyone's face was James Murray as Eugene, the wimpy kid. James has perfected this character type with previous roles as Evan in "13" and Seymour" in "Little Shop Of Horrors". A wonderful character role for a talented actor.
The other main cast members are Michelle Smith (Miss Lynch), Amy Rogers-Gee (Patty), Zoe Scott-Smith (Blanche),Helen Tunnicliff (Mrs Murdoch), Adam Collishaw (Coach Calhoun), Graham Ward (Johnny Casino) and Sophie Petruccio (Cha Cha DiGregorio), again a perfect supporting cast. A massive cast who created wonderful ensemble pieces, filling out the stage beautifully.
There are some lovely new arrangements of the classic "Grease" songs, under the musical direction of Christopher Rees and musical arranger Jon Orton. You will love the new rockier arrangement of "Greased Lightning" and the accapella start of the show, as well as some of the other songs from the soundtrack which have been given a fresh lease of life. Especially the live megamix at the end of the show.
Wonderful crisp sound by Rob Kettridge meant that every word was heard clearly.
Great choreography from Rachael Rees and Jessica Royce, which every member on stage made look as if you could do at home, but I know isn't as easy as it looks and a lot of blood, sweat and maybe tears have gone into this area of the show,
A multi-tiered set, designed by Amanda Hall and Tom Mowat allowed the show to spread out naturally, making the large cast not look cramped or crowded. Tom was also responsible for the brilliant lighting design, adding another level of professionalism to the performance. Although the audience may not appreciate the work that goes in to the lighting, I must mentionSimon Carter and Peter Hodgkinson for their "spot on" work with the follow spots. It's only noticed when the spots aren't as sharp as they should be, and the spot follows behind the actor instead of on the actor.
These little things all go to enhance the performance for the audience member. Things like the continuity of music while the scenes are changed on stage, distracting the audience from what is happening between the main scenes.
You know I could could go on and on just telling you how much I loved this performance but the best thing to do is go and see this show yourself. Even if you've seen it a hundred times before, go and see this performance because I guarantee that you'll see it with new eyes and ears.
"Grease" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 5 June 2016.

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