There Will Be Tears on Your Pillow if you Miss Out
Many people seem to think that Grease is a story about two young lovers, Danny and Sandy. But for me, Grease has always been about the music first, and Rizzo second (she gets the best songs, the best lines and the best outfits). And after watching Grease the Musical in Sydney, I am going to add a third element to that list: Teen Angel.
Grease the Musical slides into Adelaide in August 2014, image courtesy Greaseistheword website
Todd McKenney's cameo playing Teen Angel, who sings Beauty School Drop Out to Frenchie is worth the price of admission alone. I hadn't laughed that hard in ages, and you could see clearly he was enjoying himself, even stopping at one point to gesture wildly to the crowd to cheer even louder, if that was possible.
Todd McKenney hams it up as Teen Angel, image courtesy greaseistheword website
Grease the Musical is fun. It may not be as polished as some of the bigger shows, it's cast may be smaller, the sets a tad simpler (though it does have a flying car) but what it may lack in sophistication it makes up for in sheer electricity and good, old-fashioned entertainment.
What I didn't realise when I saw the Musical is that it pre-dates the popular movie by over half a decade, first erupting onto Broadway in 1972 before being made into the movie with Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in 1978. So while I was watching the stage show wondering why the director would alter the structure of the story and change some of the songs, I didn't realise that this was how it was originally written.
So, you have been duly warned: the Musical is not a direct copy of the movie. If you're prepared for that, then you can settle back and be safe in the knowledge that all your favourite songs will be performed – eventually – even if they are sung by different characters than you may expect. Some characters from the movie are not in the musical, and others – such as the T-Birds – have much beefier roles with more songs.
Relaaaax baby, it's going to be ok.
As well as the scene-stealing Todd McKenney (who looked remarkably like his drunken, white haired character on Strictly Ballroom) there are a number of big-names in this all-Australian production.
Bert Newton plays disc jockey Vince Fontaine who opens the show in a radio booth, cracking some truly awful terrible jokes and making announcements about people in the audience.
Val Lehman plays the strict headmistress of Rydell High, image courtesy of greaseistheword website
The timeless Val Lehman, from Prisoner, stars as Rydell High headmistress Miss Lynch, who walks through the audience and gives everyone a singing lesson.
Danny is played by Australian Idol finalist Rob Mills and he was a joy to watch, and he even almost nailed John Travolta's trademark laugh ('a ho ho ho'), which had the audience rolling in the aisles (literally in some cases).
The final big name is Anthony Callea as Johnny Casino, although on the night I saw the show, he was the least impressive, simply because didn't seem to having as much fun as some of the others.
The final scene and THOSE pants, image from greaseistheword website
These well-known performers are backed by an impressive cast of actresses and actors who throw themselves into the 1950s with gusto (and very big knickers). Sandy is performed by Gretel Scarlett and even though she doesn't get the big singing numbers that some of the other characters get, she plays the role admirably, although I wish the costume department re-thought her final outfit.
One of my favourite songs to sing in the shower has always been There are Worse Things I Could Do, which was sung to perfection in the movie by extraordinary actress Stockard Channing. In the stage production, the stilettos are amply filled by actress Lucy Maunder, who was a standout on the night.
Grease the Musical was a genuinely fun night. I didn't look at my watch once, I didn't budge from my seat during intermission in case I missed the start of the second act, and I sang (badly) non-stop all the way home.
This musical is fun. It's electrifying. It doesn't take itself as seriously as some of the other big shows and as such there is a degree of flexibility that allows the actors to make it their own. If you loved the movie, you will love the musical, just be prepared for things to be a little different.