Review: Grease

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Rydell High came to Earlston, or that’s how it felt sitting in the audience watching Earlston High School’s summer show for 2015, Grease.

This was the third time that the school had put on this musical, but one never tires of the fabulous music, comedy and great story. An excellent cast, wonderful singing, tricky, but very effective choreography, masterminded by Jan Baird, and all under the direction of Jeff Thomson, once more had the audiences rocking in their seats.

The show was written by Jim Jacobs and his friend Warren Casey. The story is set in the 1950s and takes place in Rydell High when the kids head back to the school for their final year after the summer break. Danny Zuko is a member of the really cool T-Birds who are only interested in cars, “chicks” and hanging out with their mates. The other gang members are Kenickie, Sonny, Roger and Doody. Sandy Dumbrowsk is the new girl in school and although she doesn’t really fit in with the Pink Ladies – Rizzo, Frenchy, Jan and Marty – she is asked to join them. She and Danny had a summer romance on the beach and unexpectedly meet up again at school. Although delighted to see her, Danny has a reputation to preserve and plays it “kinda cool”. Sandy joins the cheerleading team, but doesn’t really fit in there either. However, after several attempts, Sandy and Danny finally get together and Sandy transforms into a “hot chick”, complete with attitude.

Simon Yost, in his first high school show, played the part of Danny Zuko and Ashley Parker was Sandy. They both portrayed their characters to perfection – Simon the cool, lovable rogue whom all the girls had a crush on, and Ashley as the more innocent newcomer to Rydell High. Their strong voices were very suited to the 50s music and they wowed the audiences singing “Summer Nights” and “The One that I want” together. Ashley gained sympathy with her sweet rendition of “Raining on Prom Night” and “Hopelessly devoted to you”, while Simon convinced us that he really wasn’t a bad lad when he sang of his love for “Sandy”.

It’s difficult to single any members of the cast out as they were all brilliant. The accents, the dancing, the singing couldn’t be faulted. The T Birds and the Pink Ladies provided much of the humour in the story- Frenchy, played by Rachel Magowan, was hilarious as she managed to convince the audience of her naivety and her “flunking” at everything she tried. Rizzo, played by Ella Inglis, by contrast, was the “hot”, “saucy” harder leader of the Pink Ladies and her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, which she sang when she thought she was pregnant, brought the house down. Brilliant.

The other Pink Ladies – Marty, played by Catherine Sherlock, one of the softer characters, and Jan, played by Millie McGillivray, who seemed to eat her way through the show, combined well as the hippest girls in school. Their counterparts, the T-Birds, also drew the audience into their world of cars, attracting babes and having fun. Kenickie, played by Tom Lowes, was definitely the coolest of the guys with his passion for cars, and he was well supported by Roger, played by Lewis Wilde, who also had a huge appetite for food and who hit it off with Jan. Roger and Jan sang together also, but not about food, they sang about “Mooning”. Sonny (Alexander Cowan) and Doody (Christopher McCall) were also T Birds and they had great fun entertaining their friends and classmates. Together they delivered some of the funniest lines in the show, but when it came to singing, they were nobody’s fools. The song “Those Major Changes” was extremely funny, but the highlight of the show had to be “Greased Lightnin’”. This song left the audience calling for more. There were also fantastic performances from Holly Cunningham, as Patty Simcox, the cheerleader who never stood still for two hours, and Josephine Paterson, who as Cha-Cha DiGregorio danced her way with Danny to win the dance prize at the school hop. Everyone deserved a prize for managing the moves and singing of “Hand Jive”.

In complete contrast to the T Birds, Eugene was the “nerd” of the show. Played by Gareth Williams, this character was extremely funny; in fact he was funny without saying anything. His actions and facial expressions said it all and he had the audience in stitches whenever he appeared on the stage.

All of the youngsters who were classmates at Rydell High were so enthusiastic and energetic, and there is one young man to look out for in future shows – Mitchell Green who was Frenchy’s teen angel. He held court in a spectacular Hollywood-type number, surrounded by many beautiful “angels” as he sang “Beauty School Drop Out” to Frenchy. In another twist, there was also a “real” staff member on stage. Lisa Watson played Miss Lynch, the class teacher, who did her best to control her unruly mob of adolescents whilst almost enjoying the attentions of the sleazy DJ Vince Fontaine (Alex Johnson). Lisa was so convincing as the rather dotty school mistress that I think it’s just as well the holidays were imminent.

So, another huge success for Earlston High School. Everyone on stage gave their all and certainly looked as if they were having a ball as they sang and danced to such brilliant numbers as “We Go Together” and “Born to Hand Jive”. They were ably complemented by the back stage people – colourful costumes, appropriate hairstyles, excellent lighting and sound, very slick scene changes, great orchestra and excellent dancing by Jan Baird and Jeff Thomson. It all came together to produce a show of professional standard. I’m sure that everyone involved with Grease would agree that Mr Thomson is the “one that they want”! – S.E.A.