Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Sunday, 5 January 2014
Grease, Jan 5, 2014 ***1/2
Book, Music & Lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey, with additional songs by Barry
Gibb & John Farrar
Produced by John Frost
Her Majesty’s Theatre, from
Jan 6, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3 & 1/2
Review also in Herald Sun News online (Sunday Jan 5) and in print (Mon, Jan 6). KH
Slick back your quiff, slip on your bobby-sox
and rev up the Chevy because Grease is back in town.
1978 movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made the soundtrack famous
but, at the Melbourne premiere last night, the
audience bopped along to their favourite tunes including the sexy, upbeat You’re The One
That I Want and Grease Is The Word.
In this production, local
star Rob Mills is cocky and sultry as good-looking Danny Zuko and Gretel
Scarlett is an appealing Sandy, evolving from wholesome, girl-next-door to
smokin’ hot minx in skin tight black.
Rob Mills & Gretel Scarlett. Pic by Jeff Busby
energetic chorus supports Mills and Scarlett’s spirited duet, Summer Nights, and
Scarlett’s fine voice is highlighted in the romantic Hopelessly Devoted To You.
This version, directed by David Gilmore, is
the fifth major, Australian production of Grease since 1972, the same year that
and Warren Casey’s 1950’s jukebox style, teen musical burst onto Broadway and challenged the old, show tune musicals.
It is set in 1959 in the fictitious Rydell
High School, where shy, new, Australian student, Sandy, falls for high school
Romeo and ‘greaser’, Danny.
Although this custom T-Bird show goes into
overdrive during the many memorable songs, it stalls unforgivably during the scenes
where the pace and timing are often sluggish, dialogue clumsy and physical
comic business awkward.
Despite shining during their songs, there is
no chemistry between Mills and Scarlett so the Sandy-Danny relationship feels
flat and uncomfortable.
Stephen Mahy, as Danny’s scowling pal, Kenickie, has a magnetic stage
presence and resonant, versatile voice and steals the first act with Greased
Lightnin’, supported by the sidekicks, Roger, Doody and Sonny (Duane McGregor,
Chris Durling, Sam Ludeman).
Todd McKenney takes the
prize for biggest ham and steals the second half, singing Beauty School Dropout
in silver lame and wig.
Val Lehman’s Miss Lynch
is suitably brusque and school-teacherish, but Bert Newton looks miscast as DJ
The on-stage band is
tight as a drum, Arlene Phillips’ choreography is vibrant, Terry Parsons’
design is glitzy neon littered with 50s icons.
you are willing to forgive the flaws, this show is damned entertaining and will
heat up Melbourne’s summer nights for the whole family.
By Kate Herbert
Pics by Jeff Busby
Rob Mills - Danny
Gretel Scarlett - Sandy
Anthony Callea - Johnny Casino
Stephen Mahy - Kenickie
Lucy Maunder - Rizzo
Todd McKenney - Teen Angel
Bert Newton - Vince Fontaine
Val Lehman - Miss Lynch