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Review - Grease: The Arena Experience: spectacular for sure

T-birds and Pink Ladies, along with Teen Angel, are ready to rock.

Grease: The Arena Experience

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

Director and choreographer Callum Mansfield

Music Director Dennett Hudson

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Brisbane Convention Centre

Season: April 7-9. Bookings: Running time: Two hours 10 minutes including interval

Harvest Rain has delivered the goods again. The company promised something spectacular and, with 850 youngsters, well disciplined and in time with their own choreography, dancing, walking, running, and cheering, a whole new dimension was added to Grease. Director and choreographer Callum Mansfield showed sheer genius in bringing such a huge cast of young people together and blending them into a competent team.

And at one point I wondered … there were 850 identical little yellow jackets reflecting the lights as the cast danced. Who made them along with the rest of costumes that seemed to be constant change? Top marks to Head of Wardrobe Jo Fraher and her obviously huge gang of helpers.

It really was joy to see so many cast members having such a good time and passing the feel-good vibes on to the audience.

All the great songs were there of course: Greased Lightning, Grease, Summer Nights, Sandy, and You’re The One That I want.

Trudy Dalgleish’s magical lighting plot fitted the “spectacular” description too. It was very impressive and evocative.

The vast space of the Convention Centre was pretty well filled on opening night and the massive audience enjoyed every moment.

It is not the easiest of plays for an arena style show because it is a play with plenty of dialogue between songs, but with well balanced sound (a little too loud for my ears) the words were not lost in the space and the song lyrics were all audible. The band was never allowed too overshadow he voices.

Callum Mansfield cast his show well too. He scored Eurovision song contest singer Dami Im to play Teen Angel – which was the first time a female has played the role. So the usual crooning sounds of Beauty School Dropout gave way to her powerful pipes and soaring high notes.

I saw the original Australian production at the Metro Theatre in Melbourne in 1972 and thought it boring and sleazy – I never liked the idea of the sweet innocent being seduced into being a tart by a mob of thick-headed bogans.

But it has changed over the years and inserting the hit songs from the movie helped a lot. The darker elements of the 1970s show have gone and it has turned from being a satire on the 1950s to a happy-go-lucky dance party where the bad guys are not so much bad as funny and Danny and Sandy cross social barriers easily to the expected happy ending.

The cast was filled with top class voice from Meghan O’Shea’s believable Sandy to Libby Hendrie’s cheerleading Patty. Meghan’s Hopelessly Devoted and her “Sandra Dee/There Are Worse Things I Could Do” duet with Ruby Clark’s Rizzo were beautifully done.

I loved Ruby Clark’s Rizzo. l She was sexy and vulnerable at the same time, a little girl lost trying to be big. It was a commanding performance. And talking of sexy you don’t much more so than Thalia Smith’s Cha Cha character in the fabulous Hand Jive dance routine. She was smokin’!

I enjoyed Stacey de Waard’s interpretation of Frenchy too.

The guys matched the girls in talent, with a great performance in acting and vocal power from Drew Weston as Danny and Barry Conrad as Kenicki. The rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies sang up a storm and all in all is another success story for Harvest Rain

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