INFECTIOUS VERVE, IRRESISTIBLE SONGS, DASHING PERSONALITIES
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey
Director: Ross Gumbley
Co-director/Costumes: Stephen Robertson
Musical Director: Richard Marrett
at Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch
From 1 Dec 2012 to 26 Jan 2013
Reviewed by Lindsay Clark, 2 Dec 2012
Musical theatre at The Court has always been a great marker for summer and all the good things that go with a holiday season. The sheer scale typical of the genre has challenged the company's resources many a time and the result has always been rewarded by warm applause.
The ecstatic roar which kept the cast returning for yet another bow and the extra round given to the band once the actors had cleared for the last time, was something else. The Court has cracked the nostalgia nut – a hard shell some would say – and has a well-deserved triumph on hand to see out 2012.
Teenage angst and antics don't immediately appeal as material for the stage, even the musical stage where fabrication can charm its way into our hearts so winningly. Nor does the 'greaser' implication that a girl's gotta do that girly stuff and the jock's gotta do that macho stuff sit too comfortably with today's perceptions.
Such is the colourful momentum of this production that it simply doesn't matter. The story-line which clinches the 1959 romance of Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko at Rydell High School provides the framework for terrific song and dance numbers which boost student preoccupation with appearances and social acceptance from silly stuff to something totally engaging.
Co-directors Ross Gumbley and Stephen Robertson are able to draw from a vast reservoir of experience and together with the indefatigable Richard Marrett as musical director, deliver a stellar production. Robertson is also responsible for the dynamic choreography and costume design.
Completing the design team, Harold Moot contributes a set which places the band high up at the centre of things, with generous space for the emergence of various fifties icons, including, of course the wonderful 'Greased Lightning' motor. Lighting design from Grant Robertson achieves some marvellous effects with the high steeply-angled beams clinching many an effective sequence. Sound design is credited to Bounce NZ, Glen Ruske and Ben Rentoul. The fusion of these talents, backed by a huge team of backstage workers, fuels a night of high excitement.
There is room, though, for the skill and spirit of a vibrant cast to shine. As the Pink Ladies, the 'in' group which newcomer Sandy aspires to be part of, Jade Steele (Rizzo), Fiona Crossett (Frenchy), Lucy Porter (Jan), Kathleen Burns (Marty), Kelly Hocking (more an outsider as Patty) and Angela Hegarty (even more an outsider as Cha Cha ), are all fresh, funny and dazzling as song and dance require.
Firmly establishing the masculine, Martyn Wood (Sonny), Michael Murphy (Kenickie), Cameron Douglas (Doody), Rutene Spooner (Roger), Tainui Kuru (Jimmie ) and Adam Standring (Eugene, matching outsider for Patty) are a testosterone-charged match for the girls.
Matt McFarlane makes Danny Zuko his own with outstanding physicality and voice, while Lauren Marshall endows Sandy with all the sexy sweetness the show can take – and that is an extraordinary amount.
With secure support from Nic Kyle, Ali Harper and Mike Edward as the adults on the fringe of it all, the show is non-stop entertainment. Its infectious verve, irresistible songs and dashing personalities light up stage and audience alike. That 'we can be who we are' feeling and the assertive right to the 'time and the place and the motion' are sure winners.
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