'Grease the Musical' Review

‘Grease the Musical’ Review
Grease is indeed the word

I was delighted when our Musical Director Ms Weir agreed to let me sit in on the Grease Musical Dress Rehearsal held on Tuesday 16th so that I could write a review on our 4th school Musical! However, what I saw was so much more. Upon entering the auditorium I was greeted by a hive of colorful activity. I was seemingly invisible as I moved around and observed the Orchestra warming up and Mr Scully’s busy arms conducting away and Miss Swann taking the dancers through a warm-up on stage. The students were dressed in impressive 50’s costumes, some I’m told actually vintage. I wondered backstage and behind the curtain, the crew were practising pushing an impressive car on and off the stage. The Greenroom scared me so I didn’t stay long-so many people moving about in organized chaos, the smell of hair spray and the sound of lead performers warming up their voices was intense but it was the energy, the buzz amongst the students that stood out to me.
Then there’s Ms Weir-This lady must be clocking up some serious steps because she doesn’t stop moving…one minute she’s up giving instruction to the band, then down by the Bio Box with direction, then over to the Professional Photographer who is taking photos of the Cast and Crew for the Program and along the way, a sea of students and staff following her around with questions and she’s answering them while moving onto the next important business. Suddenly, I hear her voice shout, “Five minute Call to Stage” and like a well-oiled machine the students instantly move into action. I guess when the directors says Jump, the cast and crew jump…Then it was time, with some final words from the staff, the house lights went out, the band fired up and the show began.
'Grease' is an iconic love story set at Rydell High in the ’50s. The script although different to the movie version is well written and I later learned that Ms Weir worked hard to make this stage school version similar to the popular movie but also intent on including students from Junior, Middle and Senior School.

‘Grease Is The Word’….was the opening number and it made me smile as we meet all the characters in one great song and dance explosion. I can only imagine how this show will look once all of the lights are ready next week!

Dylan Roberts who plays Danny and his team of T Birds played by Kobie Woolford, Nick Newman, Riley Johannes and Ruben Creed were so funny. Their chemistry with each was electric. You could tell they were having fun playing their characters. Zoey Miller [Rizzo], Imogen Wigan [Frenchy], Paige Gardner [Marty], Tiahna Conway [Jan] and Kayla Brown [Patty] play Sandy’s new friend’s. The scene in which they sing ‘Freddy my Love’ portrayed a strong contrast between the sweet Sandy and her more worldly friends. The female leads stood out on so many occasion but comically, Tiahna Conway and Ruben Creed have so many great character moments and we see this in their song ‘Mooning’. I’m impressed with the versatility of Maddy Dale who plays our Sandy. We see her characters vulnerability as well as her strength in so many scenes but for me, she has the best voice in the cast.

During the rehearsal I moved around and sat in different seats. I wanted to imagine how the audience might see this show from different places. From the right side of the auditorium, you get to really see the energy from the Choir and the Orchestra. They are truly amazing and the sound just makes you want to jump up and dance with the cast. I enjoyed watching Mr Scully and Ms Weir buzz about making notes and chatting to ensure that the show doesn’t have what Ms Weir calls, ‘dead stage’ or moments of nothing…the Choir and the Orchestra seem to swing into gear as the soon as the organized crew sweep on stage to change the scene. The short scene changers combined with electric score keeps the musical at a fast-pace and ensures the audience doesn’t bored.

The production design is impressive for a school musical. You can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the props, backdrop and costumes to ensure they are in keeping with the 50’s style and era.
I believe that this is a wonderful cast well suited to the characters they play. The staff who work with the students have been so generous of their time and from one audience member to the many more who will see this show, I think all the hard work has paid off…
Even though the tickets for the Friday and Saturday night shows are all sold out, there are still tickets left for the 11am Matinee show on Friday. If you are free, I would highly recommend you get your tickets and fast!

By
Alex O’Brien
Musical Reviewer

Bonus Content:
For More Musical Scoop-check out my interview with the Musical Director Ms Weir

Q: What is your favourite song and why? 
A: "My favourite song has to be ‘Beauty School Drop Out’ for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it showcases the significances of our Musical event on our students as once again, we have a past Musical student who has nominated to return post-graduation to support us and our current students. This year one of those students is Alex Chambers, who sings and plays the part of Teen Angel in this scene and who has been a massive positive influence on our current Vocal Ensemble sharing his wisdom from past productions to support our current Production.  But secondly, because as the audience will see, this song also showcases our students from our Junior Ensemble Choir backing up the lyrics as well as our Junior Dance Ensembles who dance as part of the little 'beauty gals'. This song truly captures authentically our P-12 Unity Vibe in one snapshot. Every time I see it, rehearse with them, I smile, I feel proud of our community and how much we have achieved as a team."

Q: What was the most challenging scene and how did you overcome it? 
A: "The most challenging scene in this musical is most certainly Act 2 Scene 1-The Prom Scene. Not only does the cast have a massive quick change during a very short interval but this scene is multi-layered and required significant workshopping from the Director, the Conductor, Mr Scully and our Dance Director, Miss Swann and our teams to make it work. This scene is not just a significant moment in the Danny [Played by Dylan Roberts] and Sandy [played by Maddy Dale] storyline but it was especially difficult because we re-wrote the scene to fall in line with the iconic movie version of the production which we believe will create a memorable experience for our audiences. We begin here with the staff dancing in, 'Let’s Twist’, a fun add-on to the play text for our school but one the audience will love. I hope truly that our audiences will appreciate the complexity of the stagecraft that comes into play with this scene as the biggest difficulty and most time-consuming aspect of this scene is the musical underscore running under some dialogue as well as the four songs that showcase the business and high energy required from our performers and dancers in this one scene. For the cast and production team, if the cues are not right, this scene won't work! So, timing from our Actors, Dancers, Orchestra and the Bio Box have to work seamlessly to make this scene work...fingers crossed."

Q: What is your favourite scene and why?
A: "I have two, sorry...not sorry! ‘Grease Lightning’ and Frenchy's Sleepover. Kobi Woolfood who plays Kenickie is truly amazing in the Greased Lightning song and scene but it's also a massive moment for our audience as we reveal the 'Grease Car' which has been lovingly worked on by our Ready to Work Program Students and Staff who have done an amazing job. This is a high energy scene that also showcased our ARTS Co-Curricular bad boy dancers in the song as well as our Senior Dance classes and Cert IV dance students...it’s bound to be a show stopper.  Frenchy's Sleepover is an adorable scene and features our talented female leads and dancers. The iconic song "Sandra Dee" sung by Zoe Miller is so much fun and the vocal talent of Paige Gardner who plays Marty will blow your Sox’s off with her rendition of 'Freddy My Love'."

Q: Is there a stand out actor for you from a direction point of view? 
A: "Ok, firstly, all of our cast and crew have had many moments where they have stood out and had their ‘shine’ time. But in regards to a cast member who have stood out consistently.... I look a someone who has been a team player, someone who has lived this experience completely and has been at every rehearsal pushing people along-they know their lines, they know other people’s lines and they take initiative when something needs to be done. I have three… Firstly, our Lead, Danny played by Dylan Roberts. He literally knows everyone’s lines and movements and always wants to improve. He seeks out constructive feedback and then acts on it. Also, the lovely Bowles Twins, Ella and Tahlia-our dedicated cheerleaders. These girls are always on point and have worked so hard for the greater good. They truly show us what ‘ensemble’ should look like and feel like and of course, they are exceptionally talented as you will see as they sing together in the Prom Scene."

Q: How many hours of production did it take to put 'Grease the Musical' together? 
A: "This is a tough question…as the hours are limitless as this production doesn’t begin with the gruelling rehearsal schedule. For the staff, it begins months and months before as we peruse shows, select a show, approve a show, audition students for a show, select the cast, prepare the scripts and secure the rights to the show etc. However, if we want to talk contact hours with students, here goes; The Leads absolutely clock up the greatest number of hours from a very early stage and the rest of the company come on board at various stages. Beginning in Week 3 of Term One, the Leads/Minor Leads and I rehearse for 2 hours every Monday, Wednesday with 2 hours on Thursday focused purely on Dance. So that’s 6 hours a week plus, we added in Sunday Rehearsal from Week 5 Term 1 until Week 2 Term 3 from 9am-3pm. Then, our dedicated cast gave up 4 hours in the April Holidays for a dance workshop and two full days in the June/July Holidays. According to my calculations, we have clocked up…229 hours of contact rehearsal time. Which equates to an approximate extra 38 days of school?  This doesn’t include the access time that Leads give up to work on singing coaching, the extra time given up at lunchtimes to do costume fittings or the extra time they put in at home to rehearse their lines/practice their music or run through their dance choreography. All, while keeping up with their regular school work, part-time jobs etc etc. I think you will agree that this is absolutely outstanding dedication from our cast and crew and of course our Production Staff."

Q: Can you name a highlight from this production? 
A: "Every school musical that I have directed [Ten school productions in total, 4 at Unity], always offer many great highlights. But with this production, I have to say, that the highlight for me has been the cast. In all honesty, this cast has been one of the most positive and hard-working and determined cast of talented and creative young people that I’ve come across. I believe our success here is partially due to the fact that we have built a culture and an expectation here at Unity in regards to the quality of show we produce and the fact that this cast has learnt from the honourable Musical Companies that preceded them but most importantly, they are just an amazingly positive and empowering group of young people. They have supported the ensemble and not themselves and they have shown enormous gratitude to the staff who are standing right next to them throughout this whole journey. I think they are truly special and I am grateful to have worked with them."

Q: How many students and staff are involved in the musical as cast and crew? 

A: "Audiences will witness the work of more than 300 students who are involved in this production. From Backstage, Hospitality, Workshop, all the way to through to the full company of Orchestra, Actors and Dancers, there has been a significant number of students involved in this production from across the Year Levels and many departments. The staff question is difficult. I can count at least 45 staff names who have contributed directly to this production but in all honesty, the contribution from staff and the PNF is infinite as we rely so much on the good nature of so many to help in so much of this show especially now that we move into Production Week. I am forever, grateful to so many staff for all the big and little things they do to support the ARTS Department, support this school community event and most importantly, support our students and allow our students this opportunity to shine! Thank you!"

Comments

  1. I can't wait to see the musical, it sounds amazing. Great review Alex.

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