Arts Review: The Original Grease – Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (Performances to 7th May)

Just when you thought you were so sure that you knew the story of Grease, Squabbalogic is here to revive THE ORIGINAL GREASE for all of our grimy reeducations.

The original is dark and dingy, full of the sex and swearing of the rock ‘n’ roll era that our bubblegum Pink Ladies and swarve T-Birds know but a little of. It does take some adjusting, especially when your ears pick up the traces of those well-known tunes. “Tell me more tell me… oh, no? That’s not the song? Oh”. But once you settle into this new (old) world you’ll begin to find that these characters are much more relatable and… thoroughly real.

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The story itself is also not so much about “Sandy and Danny” but the whole motely crew of teens. No character is really given the definitive lead role, and all are given their own solo time to shine. In fact Sandy is really not much of presence at all here, and she’s a lot colder and distant than the smiley Newtown-John. Although she gets all leather-clad in the end, she spends most of the time harshly judging everyone from the sidelines. Emily Hart has a wonderful voice when she gets to use it though.

Danny (Brandan Xavier) is there in all his rebellious glory, but he’s a lot less likable. He has some moments where he genuinely tries to break the mold but settles straight back into it. The interest is more in his relationship with his fellow Burger Palace Boys rather than with the girls, particularly with his second-in-command Kenickie (Temujin Tera). There is a realness that comes from the BPB interactions that really draws you into their world. And a lot of hip thrusts. Many many hip thrusts.

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The girls are equally fascinating when together, with Rizzo (Coral Mercer-Jones) really leading the vocals here and Jan (Stephanie Priest) the acting. The original production doesn’t shy away from a lot of heavy issues, and the dealings with subjects like sexism, racism, peer pressure and teen pregnancy treated a lot more frankly than one would normally find. There are certainly no euphemisms or skirting around the issues here, no sirre, they’re right smack bang in front of your face.

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There are some really wonderful songs hidden here in the original production that I wish had seen the more popular light, like Doody’s (Timothy Shead) “Rock Progression”, Rizzo’s “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and even Patty’s (Matilda Moran) super fun “Yeeughh!” Our familiar favourites are also given a treatment here that you begin to feel makes more sense, like the messy acoustic “We Go Together”. I think perhaps my favourite sequences were those at the high school dance though, where the energetic dancing in the small space and the band right there making you feel like you’re as much a part of it as Cha-Cha’s high-kicks.

Having the band on stage during the production gives all the necessary feeling to the music, making it sound as real and honest as all the characters. This may not be the Grease you know, but it’s sure going to deliver that “shook up generation” of the 50s and a look into their changing world as they embrace it.

“F**k it” go see The Original Grease at The Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre. It will be playing until 7th May. For more information visit http://www.squabbalogic.com.au

The reviewer attended Opening Night on the 8th April.

Photo credit (c) Michael Francis, Francis Fotography

 

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