If I’m going to the Theatre at this time of year, it’s usually to watch a pantomime or Christmas show, but this year has been a little bit different. On Tuesday night, we went to the Regal Theatre to watch RAOST’s production of Grease. Before I go any further, everything I say is not at all bias – I mean, it’s not like these performers are my friends or anything. . .
I’m being completely honest when I admit that Grease isn’t really a favourite show of mine. The film is feel good, fun and iconic, but as musicals go, I don’t rate it very highly. But, I will ALWAYS support my friends, so we booked tickets; and I am so glad we did. RAOST did an excellent job with this production – it made me smile and giggle, and when I go to a show all I want is for it to emote me in some way, and it definitely did!
When the curtains opened I was thrilled to see the band on stage. For shows like Grease, this just works so well – companies don’t do it enough! The energy of this show was definitely at its highest when there was singing. It was clear how much fun the performers were having when belting out the iconic tunes. The Musical Director Alistair Taylor has done a wonderful job, especially within the larger ensemble numbers. These larger numbers had clear changes in dynamics, which I always look for in ensemble songs, because I feel that if they’re simply kept at one level, they can become a bit ‘samey’ and lose their impact. It was a shame that due to some microphone problems and a bit of a temperamental speaker behind us, occasional solo lines were lost within these larger numbers, but regardless, the overall sound produced was powerful.
Vocally, there were brilliant performances; Roxanne Dash (Sandy) gave her rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ with such vocal ease, and displayed great emotion through her voice. Similarly Tim Kellow (Danny Zuko), sang the challenging song ‘Sandy’ effortlessly. Some of the harmonies between cast members were incredibly tight; this was particularly noticeable in the short duet by Matt Dawes (Doody) and Paul Dash (Roger).
The ‘T-Birds’ wore their iconic jeans, tees and leather jackets, they completely looked the part in these costumes. I didn’t even notice the expected ‘t-bird’ logo missing from the back of their jackets until I heard someone comment on the way out (I personally felt it looked better without). Similarly the Pink Ladies were individually identifiable from their costumes, down to even the smallest details. In the ensemble numbers I loved the individuality of the costumes to each character. I particularly loved the comedic use of roller skates in the diner scenes.
The Lighting and Set
The set design was bright and eye-catching, with clever use of fold out flats, to hide, disguise or change locations. I was glad to see the set changes mainly being done by cast members or stage crew in costume rather than all blacks; it meant that we were kept within the story of ‘Rydell High’. Some of the scene transitions were a bit lengthy, but as someone who has performed at the Regal and knows the backstage areas, this is often almost impossible to avoid and comes with practise.
I found the use of lighting a perfect fit. The use of bright colours, spotlights and shadows were effective. I particularly enjoyed the use of lighting on the Pink Ladies and T-Birds at the end of Act One, that left us with a strong image.
The Staging and Choreography
Helen Hartshorne has done a fantastic job of the massive task of staging and choreographing this show. As a Strictly fan, I enjoyed some of the impressive ‘Strictly-esque’ lifts at the high school dance; specifically the one executed beautifully by Natasha Shrigley (Rizzo) and Peter Collett (Kenickie). I found the addition of the men to ‘Beauty School Dropout’ a clever touch.
Each cast member delivered enthusiastic performances, from the leads to the ensemble. Some noticeable performances for me had to be firstly, Tom Richards as Eugene. From the moment the show began all the way to the very end, he never lost his characterisation and provided great comedy, without going too far. Equally Val Jones may not have had the biggest role, but she was always in character, and like Tom, she contributed to the humour without distracting.
Rachel Barratt as a bubbly Jan kept drawing my attention with her hilarious reactions, in particular to Paul Dash’s tuneful rendition of ‘Mooning’ – and what fantastic parts to be able to eat continuously! I felt Peter Collett made a perfect Kenickie, his physicality throughout made him identifiably the Kenickie everyone expects to see and it was great to see the other side of this character via his responses to Rizzo; clearly a well thought out performance. The chemistry between the men was evident; they bounced off each other with ease; a great deal of comedy was created through the dialogue between Jesse Lapham (Sonny) towards the other T-Birds.
The cheerleaders were slick; I particularly loved the way Sarah Barker who played Patty, gave little looks back to one of the dancers Claire Nicholls, in regards to her legs being the highest. It was subtle, but clever!
Tim and Roxanne both gave the audience what they wanted from the parts of Danny and Sandy, from their looks, to their voices that balanced together beautifully, especially in ‘Summer Nights’.
I could write about every individual, as they all brought something unique to this production to make it the successful show it was.
There aren’t many tickets left, but if you do get the opportunity please go and support these talented people that I am honoured to call friends. Christmas is all about feeling good and this show will achieve that, so it could make a great early Christmas present. The amount of work that has gone into this production is evident and from someone who isn’t a fan of Grease, I promise you, you will leave singing along, with a smile on your face.
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