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Update April 9th 2014
Grease will return to Melbourne for an encore summer season from 11 December 2014 at the The Regent Theatre.
Three Decades Of Summer Lovin'
Photo: Grease The Musical Australia
When the directors of the movie Grease were looking for an actor to play the role of Danny Zuko in the 1970's, they approached Henry Winkler aka Fonzie from the TV Happy Days. He turned down the role as he didn't want to be typecast, and admits the decision was one of his biggest regrets. The movie catapulted John Travolta's career and the was an international hit. Winkler's response to his decision? "That's why John Travolta went on to buy his own plane and I just went home."
Henry Winkler regrets not taking up the role of Danny Zuko in the movie Grease. Photo: www.whosdatedwho.com
Fast forward three decades and the movie is still as popular today as it was in the 70's. We've all grown to adore the fictional characters - wholesome and pure Sandy the new girl in town, handsome chick-magnet Danny, the cool hot-rodding T-Birds, sarcastic and tough Rizzo, the gum-snapping, hip-shaking Pink Ladies, angelic saviour Teen Angel, and egotistical, womanising radio disk jockey Vince Fontaine. What is it about these characters that have us in a frenzy we can't let them go? We connect and relate to them, it's that simple.
With numerous revivals, arena spectacular concerts, school and community productions, this is a much loved musical as it is a movie. Following the journey of senior class students at Rydell High, the year 1959, it focuses on friendship, love, acceptance, and fulfilling dreams. Mixed with a great storyline and timeless songs, the production has come a long way since it opened in London in the 70's with a then unknown Richard Gere in the role of Danny Zuko.
Opening night in Melbourne Sunday 6 January 2014. Photo: Grease Is The Word Facebook
It's no wonder the latest production of Grease currently performing around Australian theatres is attracting audiences in droves. I attended opening night in Melbourne, the red carpet rolled out, Grease's pink promotional car parked proudly in front of Her Majesty's Theatre, and the who's who of Melbourne were there in full support.
The red carpet opening. Photo: Grease Is The Word Facebook
I've seen many productions of Grease, and this by far is the best. It's a hit from the minute Miss Lynch (Val Lehman) walks on stage and interacts with the audience to join in her 'singing class'. When the band perched high up on stage began to play, it was thunderous as King Kong's roar.
Bring on Danny and Sandy to share a brief interlude, the cast breaking out into Grease Is The Word, and the audience is trying their hardest to stay seated whilst clapping along grinning from ear to ear. Yes folks, this is Grease The Musical and we love it.
Val Lehman plays the role of Miss Lynch and gets the audience to sing. Photo: Grease Is The Word Jeff Busby
This production has been reworked for the best in my opinion. It moves at a fast pace, with some changes made to the original score to bring it in line with the movie - and to what audiences expect. About time I say. Hallelujah!
Cast of Grease. Photo: Grease Is The Word. Jeff Busby
The original production is slightly different to the movie. Back then it seemed fine, but three decades on with its popularity soaring to record highs, audiences want to hear all the hit songs and the movie played out to them live on stage. This is how Grease should be in the 21st century.
Photo: Rob Mills plays Danny. Photo: Grease Is The Word Jeff Busby
Rob Mills as chick magnet Danny Zuko is brilliant - there's no disputing he's perfect for this role. His voice suits the music, he's charismatic, handsome, and has that boyish charm similar to John Travolta. He's come a long way since Australian Idol, and found his niche in musical theatre working pretty damn hard to get there too.
He's a stayer in the industry and genuine nice guy - and nice guys get my vote. Working on the Australian Idol tour in Adelaide I drove 'Millsy' and the Idols in Adelaide. Bumping into him a few times in Melbourne he remembers. Success hasn't gone to his head, and his performance on stage reflects this - he's a star!
Gretel Scarlet plays Sandy. Photo: Matt Bell
Gretel Scarlett as Sandy has tough shoes to fill, which she does quite flawlessly. Her training at WAAPA, the recipient of numerous awards and many theatre credits show on stage. She made the songs her own, and looked absolutely smashing in the final scene - 'skinny envy' - sigh.
The talented Todd McKenney as Teen Angel steals the show. Hamming it up, and briefly stopping the band during his number Beauty School Dropout, (I won't spoil it) adding his 'personal touch' is the highlight. He plays and teases the audience right into the palm of his hands like an absolute pro. Meeting Todd after the show, he was happy to chat and pose for snaps - another nice guy vote from me.
Todd McKenney takes time out to chat after the show.
Bert Newton needs no introduction. Audiences erupt the minute he steps foot on stage, he can do no wrong and they can't get enough of him. He's quite comfortable in the role of Vince Fontaine, and considering he's used to 'spinning the hits' it's a walk in the park for him. He's as smooth as a glass of Penfolds Grange.
Anthony Callea plays Johnny Casino. Photo: Grease Is The Word Jeff Busby
Anthony Callea shines as Johnny Casino. Although not a demanding role, he's no stranger to the stage - and he works it. A fantastic mover, brilliant singer, the audience clapped, cheered and lapped up every minute of it.
Stephen Mahy is ideal for the role of Kenickie. Having seen him in the Jersey Boys he's going from strength to strength. He rips into Greased Lightning with enormous intensity, with no disputing he's on a mission to get his 'baby' (dream car) on the road.
The show is polished, snappy, tight and slick. The costumes magnificent and in keeping with the era, the sets and lighting cleverly designed, and the choreography sensational making this an outstanding production.
Rob Mills and Gretel Scarlett. Photo: Grease Is The Word Jeff Busby
The setting of the final scene is a breath of fresh air. Without saying too much - it's the perfect change.
Streamers and 'pops' added to the electric atmosphere while three generations were up on their feet clapping and singing along with the cast during the final curtain call. Even after two and a half hours the energy was as upbeat as it was at the start.
Grease will return to Melbourne for an encore summer season from 11 December 2014 at the The Regent Theatre. The popular all-star cast will be back ready to party during Melbourne's summer nights, and it's going to be a blast!