grease cast

Grease

Stage Experience

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

FORGET Simon Cowell and his PR machine telling us Britain’s got talent, just switch off the telly and head off to the Alex and see real talent in the flesh.

The Alex’s Stage Experience scheme, now in its 13th year, gives Midland youngsters a chance to appear in a professionally directed and produced shthe boysow and is reaching legendary status and so is director and choreographer Pollyann Tanner.

For the 13th time she has waved her magic wand and in just two intensive weeks turned 130 youngsters, aged nine to 24, into one heck of a show good enough to give the professionals a run for their money.

 

The Rydell High boys

Grease started life as a raw, raunchy musical with an amateur cast in an unfashionable theatre in Chicago in 1971, it dealt with working class youth, gangs, teenage pregnancies and all the angst of coming of age in a less than high flying high school – a year later with a clean-up and polish Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s musical was on Broadway and a phenomena was born.

It might be set in 1959 and 45 years on, be in middle age, but with this superb cast it is as fresh, youthful and lively as if it were written yesterday.

The musical revolves around the on-off romance of Danny, the leader of the greasers –  the name given to working class teen gangs in the 1950s, hence the musical’s title - at Rydell High, who falls for new girl Sandy . . . except when his greaser peers are around.

Sandy is a bit of a shy, goody-two-shoes entering into the female gang, the Pink Ladies, where she had a lot to learn.

Jordan Ricketts is a fine Danny with a good voice while Georgia Anderson has a lovely voice and manages a fabulous contrast between the sweet and innocent Sandy girlsand her raunchy alter ego in the finale. Both are off to London for theatre degrees next term and although the standard line for 80 per cent of actors is “Do you want fries with that?” both can dance, sing and act, so are in with a chance.

As is Sofi Robinson as the promiscuous, dismissive, Rizzo. She adds a sultry, sexy air to her character as well as a fine alto voice, and mkes the stage look like her natural habitat.

The Pink Ladies of Rydell High

The rest of the greasers add a mix of lust and humour to proceedings with Caven Rimmer excellent as Kenickie with his supercar Grease Lightning – which might just be a little optimistic when it comes to its name.

Then there is Harry Chapman as Roger, the school’s mooning champ, played with some splendid humour, Doody, nicely played by Charlie Howell and, bringing up the rear, Sonny who believes every girl is falling for him, played with some nice comic touches by Harry Sheasby.

Not to upset Sonny, his catapult for the rumble with rival gang, the Flaming Dukes, might have a quite serious design flaw. Perhaps just as well the Dukes never turned up.

Then we had the ladies with Frenchy, played by with an assured air by Georgina Steggles, who drops out of high school, then beauty school and prays for a teen andany and sandygel who appears in the shape of Mark Shaun Walsh with his band of angels, a real quality voice and tongue in cheek performance.  He first made his mark two years ago as the Reverend Shaw in Footloose and is still one to watch out for.

There is Marty, played by Jasmine Shen, with her long distance relationship – and its presents – with a marine, and Jan, whose hobby appears to be eating, played with some lovely timing by Melissa Huband and, flirting her way around the pom poms is head cheerleader Patty, in a lively performance by Isabella Kibble.

Liam Huband gives a fine performance as the nerdy Eugene while Jessica Walton adds a little sexual charm as Cha-Cha Digregorio.

There is good support from a large ensemble and Pollyann Tanner does a fine job not only as director, giving us a well paced, fast moving show, but also as choreographer with the entire cast on stage at times, which is as much crowd control as choreography, but it never looks like a mob or a crowd, everyone is in their place and knows what to do in what are at times extremely complicated routines.

Jordan Ricketts as Danny and Georgia Anderson as Sandy

Good, interesting choreography and even better execution on a sparking set full of strings of lights and a huge juke box at the rear of the stage from Scenic Projects.

Musical Director Chris Newton and his seven-piece band added enormously to the production in such well known numbers as Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin’ and Your’e the One That I Want.

There were a couple of issues on sound, mics not picking up fast enough and a couple of times when the cast carried on while songs were still being cheered and applauded, losing the dialogue, but that is nitpicking in what is a marvellous show, brim full of enthusiasm and talent. To 20-08-16

Roger Clarke

18-08-16

And on a summer night . . .

*****

THIS power-packed production of the famous musical proves the Midlands is simply bristling with emerging talent just waiting for an opportunity to shine and given the chance by Stage Experience.

Following auditions in May, 120 young people aged nine to 24 have been drilled by brilliant professional director and choreographer Pollyann Tanner during an intense two-week period, and the result is remarkable.

They ooze confidence singing and dancing to some of the great numbers that made the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John such a global hit, and the standing ovation on gala night was thoroughly deserved.

In addition to those on stage, seven youngsters with an interest in the backstage element of the theatre helped with lighting, sound and scene changes.

Since the experimental Stage Experience was launched in 2003, 1,600 young people have performed in shows at the New Alexandra Theatre, and a number have gone on to clinch successful careers in show business.

It’s a certainty that some of the current cast will follow them, with so many eye-catching performances, from all the leads to the under-tens.

Georgia Anderson, 20, is a supremely confident Sandy, the quiet girl who blossoms at Rydell High School, and her delivery of Hopelessly Devoted was a delight, while Jordan Ricketts, 18, fitted smoothly into the role of her boyfriend, Danny Zuko, if lacking the slick Travolta hairstyle.

Strong performances, too, from Sofi Robinson, as the sexy Rizzo and Caven Rimmer (Kenickie), with the beautifully-costumed Beauty School Dropout one of several stand-out scenes.

Chris Newton is musical director of a silk-smooth show that runs to 20.08.16

Paul Marston

18-08-16 

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