MUSICAL REVIEW: Grease

As a kid I was obsessed with Grease. I saw the film and instantly fell in love. John Travolta was my first celebrity crush – this was before he became an old crazy scientologist who royally mangled Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars. (Shame on you, John). I used to listen to my Grease cassette tape all the time and start and stop it every few seconds so I could write down the lyrics to every song (“Rama lama lama ka ding a da ding a dong” is quite hard to understand without Google, kids, so you should be impressed).  I used to jump on my bed and pretend I was playing Sandy in a school musical. And then my school actually did do a ‘version’ of Grease (we didn’t actually have the rights) and then I was devastated when I didn’t get cast as Sandy, but Pink Lady No. 6 (I got to wear a cool jacket at least). I’ve seen Grease professionally four times – the most recent being 2005 – and loved it every time, but somehow I had low expectations for this one. There were two possibilities going in: my love would be reinvigorated, or I would realise that Grease no longer holds that special place in my heart…

sandy summer nightsIt didn’t get off to a good start. First we had to put up with Bert Newton crapping on as he always does, followed by Val Lehman conducting a sing-a-long with the crowd. She announced that singing along was encouraged and I just thought OH GOD NO, if anyone near me tries to sing over the professionals I might just get violent. Thankfully, if there was any audience singing once the show properly started, it wasn’t anywhere near me. HOWEVER, there was a bunch of ten(ish) year old girls behind me who thought it was fine to talk loudly throughout the entire overture, and who continued to talk (thankfully somewhat more quietly) throughout the remainder of the show. PARENTS, DO YOUR JOB AND TELL THEM TO SHUT UP! I didn’t pay $110 a ticket to have kids talk over the top of the whole show.
T-birdsGretel Scarlett as Sandy was beautiful – her ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ was the one moment that made me feel in awe – what a voice! Rob Mills was decent as Danny and has good comic timing, but he’s no Travolta, let’s be honest. I was bummed to miss out on seeing Stephen Mahy as Kenickie but Sam Ludeman as his understudy still delivered. I was impressed with Chris Durling as Doody and I look forward to his Enjolras in Les Miserables later this year. The other Pink Ladies and T-Birds were all great in their roles. As is the norm with John Frost-produced musicals, there was some ‘star-casting’. Todd McKenney as Teen Angel: tick! Anthony Callea as Johnny Casino: I love the guy but he seemed a bit lost amidst the dancing (maybe because he was shorter than everyone else?). Val Lehman as Miss Lynch: she’s considered a legend but she doesn’t get much to do here. What I really want to say to John Frost is this: STOP CASTING BERT NEWTON! He’s past it and he can’t play anyone except himself. I’m also pretty sure Vince Fontaine isn’t meant to be 75. His cracking onto Marty at the high school dance was just creepy. The only time Bert Newton should be cast in a musical is if the only other options are Alan Jones or Derryn Hinch (also ‘stars’ that Frost has cast in previous shows). STOP CASTING CRAP OLD MEN WHO CAN’T ACT! I honestly don’t think that anyone is buying tickets because of these kinds of casting choices – in fact, these are often a deal breaker for my Mum who says she’s not paying money to see these people. Special shout-out to Euan Doidge in the ensemble who has killer moves. He’s in his 20s and is the understudy for Bert Newton if that tells you anything…

Just...stop. PLEASE.
Just…stop. PLEASE.

The thing that was the most perplexing was that I got the vibe that it was really a family-oriented show. The audience participation, the young kids in the audience, the lame jokes… But the thing is, Grease really isn’t even appropriate for young kids. (I know, I saw it when I was ten too). But pretty much all the jokes are about groping boobs or giving someone the finger, and has anyone listened to the lyrics of ‘Greased Lightnin’’? (Back in Grade 6 my friends and I asked our teacher what “the chicks will cream” meant. She sent us to the health teacher). On top of all that, Grease has to have the WORST moral of the story of all time: If you want people to like you, pretend to be someone else and sex-up your image. This is not a good message for kids! The obvious flaws with this ending didn’t dawn on me until I was much older.

Moral of the story: slutting up gets the guy
Moral of the story: slutting up gets the guy

The production values weren’t bad, the songs were fun, and the performers (for the most part) were good. But it didn’t make me feel as alive as it once did. Unfortunately, I think I have finally tired of Grease the stage show (the film is still awesome). When I have kids I’ll still consider it a rite of passage to watch the film, and I may take them to the show some time, but I’ll be having a word with them afterwards about the importance of self-respect and staying true to yourself. And I will tell them to shut the hell up while they’re watching it.

3.5 stars

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