It’s been 22 years since Australia enjoyed the last production of Grease, and an even longer 35 years since Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta lit up the screen in the unforgettable movie cult classic. One can’t help but wonder if this year’s musical rendition will pack enough punch to be burning up the quarter mile in true Grease style. Director David Gilmore brings to the stage a fiery ensemble that energetically proves that Grease is still the word.

Teenage lovebirds Danny (Rob Mills) and Sandy (Gretel Scarlett), who enjoyed a passionate love affair over the summer holidays, find their whirlwind romance at odds when the adolescent pressures of high school come knocking. With the gum-chewing Pink Ladies and hip-thrusting T-Birds in tow, cool cat Danny and goody two-shoes Sandy must find a way to navigate through their final year at Rydell High.

Enhanced by some of the best musical numbers in theatre history, including ‘Greased Lightnin’’ and ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You,’ Grease delivers an enjoyable night out but unfortunately isn’t quite as memorable as you’d expect. While the choreography and ensemble musical numbers are certainly dazzling, it’s the two most important roles that seem to falter.

Although Scarlett’s portrayal of Sandy (her first leading stage role) is musically very strong, the WAAPA graduate only manages to ignite the stage when she finally sheds her girl-next door demeanour in favour of a black skin-tight lycra body suit, red heels and vivacious curls for the final number. Mills’ Danny Zuko is charming at the best of times but lacks that certain charisma to make him the true T-Bird top man.

Luckily, the veracity and vigour missing from Scarlett and Mills’ two-dimensional performance is injected by Stephen Mahy as hunky Kenickie, Lucy Maunder as the feisty Rizzo and a surprisingly strong piece by Todd McKenney as Teen Angel.

With more neon, hair gel and costume changes than Mardi Gras, Grease is a spectacle of ’50s flair and pop-culture that’s certainly electrifying!

3/5 stars


*Photo by Jeff Busby

Grease is currently showing at the Lyric Theatre.

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