Grease: tangible on-stage chemistry

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 14:34 05/12/2012
Matt McFarlane and Lauren Marshall
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GREASE STARS: Danny Zuko (Matt McFarlane) and Sandy Dumbrowski (Lauren Marshall)

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REVIEW: Grease
The Court Theatre
December 1 - January 26
Directed by Ross Gumbley and Stephen Robertson
Musical director - Richard Marrett
Reviewed by Georgina Stylianou

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With all its delightful clichés, identity crises and timeless tunes, Grease is the must-see musical of the summer.

The Court Theatre's rendition of this beloved show doesn't try to fix something that isn't broken; a move I find most admirable.

Instead, it accentuates the feminine, roughs up the hair comb macho, cheeses up the choreography and embraces the stereotype.

It's 1959 at the typical American high school of Rydell High and lovebirds Danny Zuko (Matt McFarlane) and Sandy Dumbrowski (Lauren Marshall) are still bathing in the afterglow of their summer romance.

But when Sandy enrols at Rydell Danny, the leader of the T-Birds gang, has returned to his Alpha male state, and Sandy, the quintessential picture of sweet and innocent, struggles to win her man back.

Both leads give stellar performances with tangible on-stage chemistry and the ideal combination of vocal and acting ability.

Marshall nails the lamenting Hopelessly Devoted To You and sexes it up during You're The One That I Want while McFarlane shows the softer side to his character during Sandy but the pelvic thrusts and hip rotations he does so well are never far out of sight.

A stunning cast cleverly flaunts the gender contrasts and takes the lead on most songs.

The Pink Ladies - comprised of Betty Rizzo (Jade Steele), Frenchy (Fiona Crossett), Jan (Lucy Porter) and Marty (Kathleen Burns) - provide sex appeal, comedy and girlish charm.

Each woman seems made for their role and Steele belts out There Are Worse Things I Could Do to a spine-tingling finish while Porter would easily win the People's Choice award for her portrayal of Jan, the clumsy but loveable overeater.

Sonny (Martyn Wood), Kenickie (Michael Murphy), Doody (Cameron Douglas) and Roger (Rutene Spooner) make up the T-Birds and each actor packs a hair-gelled, leather-wearing punch. Murphy deserves a big pat on the back for his excellent performance in Greased Lightning .

The choreography, by co-director Stephen Robertson, is spot on and capitalises on the set and the vibrancy of the 1950s. The band, featuring Michael Ferrar on guitar, Tim Sellars on drums, Michael Story on bass and Richard Marrett on keyboard, makes light work of all the numbers and their on-stage placement is refreshing, as is their sneaky costume change at half-time.

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Nic Kyle, who recently toured with Elaine Paige, has a disappointingly small role but delivers strongly nonetheless. Shortland Street actor Mike Edward plays radio personality Vince Fontaine and the Teen Angel.

Please note that Edward's performance inBeauty School Dropout guarantees to get the ladies in the audience - and probably the men -a little hot under the collar.

The Court Theatre's Grease is a world-class show full of vitality and talent and simply can not be missed.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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