Knutsford Musical Theatre Company
Director: Ben Ireson
Musical Director: Michael J Scott
Choreographer: Alexandra Howarth
“Grease is the word!” The show is a historic piece set at a time when “Greasers” was the name for the youth sub-culture of 1950s. It was during this period that two new states were added to the United States of America; the Barbie Doll was launched and two hit TV shows were “Rawhide”, a western, and the “Twilight Zone” a science fiction drama. Grease highlights ten working-class teenagers revealing the complexities of youth at the times when sex and peer pressure were forefront.
To capture the feel of the 1950s, the Scenic Projects set did everything that was required. It was a multipurpose set which, when closed, looked like an iconic juke box. When the set was opened, the resulting insets covered all the locations dictated by the script and allowing maximum space for the action. The lighting and sound designs created a dramatic edge to the proceedings. Costumes are always so important in creating the overall concept, so that the characters looked like rebellious teenagers, and the teaching staff looked as though they belonged to the era.
This show is so well known that there is a high expectancy from the audience. Without disappointing them the cast also added their own interpretations.
The direction created an energy the moment the cast burst on to the stage and this energy was maintained throughout with strong characterisations from all its members. The relationships between the various characters was believable, although maybe a little too modern at times: the show is set in a time so very different from today. Musically, this homage to the music of “Rock n Roll” was honoured with the inclusion of the 1978 film music. The fabulous close harmony opening of “We Go Together” had Doo-Wop vibes. Although it is easy to copy from the film version this choreography was original; all the dance and movement sequences were exciting and confidently executed. The talented choreographer also played the sexy, Cha-Cha Di Gregorio, with panache.
Clare Moorhouse played Rydell High headmistress, Miss Lynch. Anything Clare plays is worth watching; she delivers a complete character. The other members of the school staff (Dianne Anderson, Louise Mather and Diane Cordwell) were not just fill-ins, they fulfilled a purpose. The new term at Rydell High introduces many diverse characters. Nerdy Eugene, the class swot, was portrayed, with comic delivery, by Myles Ryan. So too was Patty, the athletic, self-assured cheerleader, played by Sophie Dickens.
The ensemble was the support team underpinning the action. The members of the company really raised the bar for performance quality.
We met teen-idol, the croone,r Teen Angel (Thomas Frith), D.J and veteran “Greaser”, Vince Fontaine (Stuart Dutton) and Johnny Casino (Ben Evans-Clark), another “Greaser”, who leads a “Rock ‘n’ Roll” band. Their appearance enhanced the overall enjoyment of the piece.
Set in a time when male dominance ruled, and teenage men had to fulfil an image The ‘T’ Birds embraced this persona. They were individually portrayed at the same time, creating the identity of the gang. From would-be guitar playing, Doody, the youngest of the guys. Jack “Doody” Parry’s infectious enthusiasm came bounding across. Kortez Ellis, as Wannabe tough guy, Sonny, gave another element to the “T” Birds makeup. Kenickie (Jonathan Hall) and Rodger (Oliver Hall) added to the mix of testosterone fuelled freshmen.
Fighting against this dominance were the “Pink Ladies”, determined to be equal in relationships. Sexual awareness turns into experimental fumblings, and the girly sleep overs heightened the struggles of growing up. The contrast in the girls is down to life experience from the new age. There is forever eating, Jan, who was nicely portrayed, never over acted but with a light comic touch, by Christie Rolley. Not-so-bright dream-girl, Frenchy (Kirsty Hall) and, trying to act sophisticated, Marty (Emma Benson), all contributed to the overall identity of the Pink Ladies. Their leader, the sarcastic, hard-nosed, Rizzo, was played by Kat Clive, a fine actress. “Pink Ladies Rule!”
In the beginning, under peer pressure, and after a summer blossoming romance, goody two shoes, the sweet Sandy, gets her man. Lauren Campbell is a strong actress and had her moments as Sandy Dumbrowski. Maybe just a little more naïvety would have clinched the character.
The leader of the “T” birds, Danny Zuko, was smoothly played by Oliver Hale, who delivered everything Danny is renowned for. Oliver had to take over the role with just hours to prepare. He totally blended in with the cast.
No stage time or space was wasted; this iconic musical revival enthralled the audience.