York Theatre Royal until Saturday 23 February 2019.
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
Grease is the word, is the word that you heard, it’s got groove, it’s got meaning, Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion, Grease is the way we are feeling. Yes, Grease with its feast of 1950’s music and dance, has come to York Theatre this February thanks to York Light. Grease is one of the best known musicals thanks to the John Travolta and Olivia Newton John film, which is over 40 years old (how did that happen?).
Grease follows a group of high school kids from the fifties, going back to school as seniors after summer break. Sandy (Sarah Craggs) is new to the school and is taken under the wing of the Pink Ladies, Frenchy (Hannah Witcomb), Jan (Fiona Baistow), Marty (Rachael Whitehead) and of course Rizzo (Emma-Louise Dickinson). Meanwhile Danny (James Horsman) is the leader of the T-Birds, Kenickie (Jack Armstrong), Doody (William Darwin), Roger (Finn East) and Sonny (Jonathan Wells). What follows is the story of friendship, love and teenage pressure, and of course all those memorable, iconic tunes.
Horsman played Danny as a lot gentler character than we are used to, his vocals were smooth, and the perfect partner for this Sandy, in fact they are a couple in real life. There is a lot of energy on stage, and with a few of the audience, who were singing along with hands in the air for quite a bit of the performance. The cast really looked like they were having a blast, who can blame them, doing what they love, singing and dancing to a packed audience?
One of the highlights of the show for me was the “Mooning” scene, a duet with Roger and Jan. It was hilarious and got the whole audience going, both are truly wonderful. East is such a presence on stage, with his over the top expressions and comic timing, it so works in this production. As for Baistow, she was just an energetic bundle during the dance routines, mesmerising to watch. Another highlight was of course Kenickie and the T-Birds performing “Greased Lightnin’”, probably the most well known of all the songs in the show. Armstrong was amazing as the supposed bad boy, who is really just a softy. He is a real talent and I would love to have seen him in the lead role in the future, hopefully a star in the making.
The set is quite simple, but more than effective, with the use of panels, benches and of course Kenickie’s car. The band, led by John Atkin, did great justice to all the fabulous tunes, that we know so well. Hair and costumes had that true 50’s feel, men with slicked back hair, combs always at hand, and the girls in their full skirts. There was also quite a bit of sparkle in the Teen Angel scene, and I do love a bit of sparkle. Teen Angel (Richard Bayton,) got probably one of the loudest cheers on the night and he sure camped it up, he is a well known face at York Theatre Royal.
It was sometimes hard to remember that this was an amateur production with a predominantly young cast. It was performed with such energy and enthusiasm that it was catching. I had such a grin on my face for most of the show, what more could anyone ask for? This show is a must see for any age. Please go and see it and support this local drama group, you will leave feeling so much happier, with a smile on your face, you will not be disappointed.