Grease – The Musical

It’s always hard when producing such a classic musical such as GREASE, whether to do a fresh contemporary interpretation or to keep to tradition. 

Presented by: Harvest RainVenue: Playhouse, QPAC (Brisbane)
Saturday, May 7, 2011  
Handing over the Harvest ‘Reins’. It’s always hard when producing such a classic musical such as GREASE, whether to do a fresh contemporary interpretation or to keep to tradition. With so many people who grew up with the movie, performers and audiences alike will remain divided into these two camps. I’m in the camp that enjoys a fresh interpretation of a show that I have already seen and overall, I really enjoyed Debut Director Naomi Price’s vision for this fantastic production by Harvest Rain. The special highlight for me was the cameo appearance of Luke Kennedy as the Teen Angel doing “Beauty School Dropout”. I LOVED the soul interpretation, which showed off Luke’s vocals superbly, and the tongue in cheek overtly gay performance was a giggle-fest and a real treat for Luke Kennedy fans. I do understand however, that die-hard GREASE fans may not have been won over. Having said that, what I didn’t think worked were the embellished contemporary vocal licks from some of the cast, which really didn’t fit with the 50’s music. I also must admit there were a couple of the “traditional” classic dance steps in You’re the One That I Want, that I was a little disappointed to see weren’t included. But I’m being picky, especially where the dance is concerned as I thought the choreography was the strongest production element of this show. Callum Mansfield’s choreography was fun, energetic, and spectacular. He utilised the dancers well with impressive lifts and his group formations used the different levels of the large set to great effect. Another element that was engagingly strong throughout the show was the vibrant and committed performances by the entire cast. There is something to be said about a youthful cast with so much energy and enthusiasm to spare to really inject the show with a huge does of fun!
The T-Birds playful characters were very engaging and fun to watch and seemed a little more cohesive as a group than the girls. Justin Truloff played a spunky Kenickie which suited him really well, while Shaun Kohlman’s as Doody performed “Those Magic Changes” with an endearing light-hearted quality which was at the same time amusing and entertaining (compliments also to the director and choreographer here). And of course, who could forget “Mooning” by Tom Oliver as the ‘cheeky’ Putzie. Other performances I enjoyed were Kristen Barros playing nerdy Jan. Her characterisation was flawless. Alex Valentine as Marty really came into her own and shone in “Freddy My Love”. A little more of that spunk could perhaps have been injected a little earlier though as her character was a little in the background until that moment. Another standout was Elissa Jenkins as Rizzo. Her voice was always fantastic but this role allowed her to showcase the more mature quality of her vocals and her solo “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was a nice balance to the character’s tough exterior. Blake Testro as Danny and Hannah King were both well cast and did a great job as expected but together the chemistry could develop a little more to give the storyline a little more spark. The only things I didn’t think went so well was the sound and sometimes lighting. I’ll preface by saying that opening night of most amateur productions have these kind of problems with mike levels and cues, so I don’t worry about it too much, but I guess I was expecting a little more from a QPAC venue. I will also say it’s a pretty thankless job because sound and lighting work their butts off throughout the show, and only few people take any notice when it’s ‘spot on’ (pardon the pun), but everyone notices when it’s not. The only small comment I’ll make with the lighting is that sometimes it was hard to know who was singing. There was one particular number where the stage was filled with just about all of the cast members and there were some solo lines that either weren’t lit or pulled enough focus so by the time the audience worked out who was singing, their 16 bars of fame had passed. Overall, I loved this production of GREASE and if I had five words to describe it, they would be fun, energetic, youthful, vibrant, and spectacular. Even before the opening night performance started the vibe was set outside the QPAC Center, with some of the Pink Ladies, T-Birds and other cast members gathering around rocking 50’s cars just prior to the show. It created a great atmosphere, and reminded me once again how well oiled and professional Harvest Rain is. Outstanding production work behind the scenes really does get noticed. And as a director debutante, Naomi Price is to be commended for tackling such a huge production with around 70 cast members, and Tim O’Connor should also equally  commended for his faith and encouragement in handing over the Harvest ‘Reins’ to foster talent in emerging directors. Ph: 07 3840 7444  or visit    Photography by Rebecca Green

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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