Venue: Central Hall
The long awaited campus production of Grease, bought to us by the newly formed Happily Ever After Society, promised to be highly entertaining and it did not disappoint.
The all singing, all dancing energetic cast members were in character from the moment the audience arrived, greeting us with a bright and cheery American ‘Hey there!’ as they ushered us in. This unnecessary, slightly saccharine, audience involvement at the beginning of the play did not captivate everyone’s attention, and failed to warm up the audience. However, the lively opening scene redeemed this. The vibrant, well-timed choreography and infectious levels of energy engaged the audience and paved the way for the standard to follow.
The cast as a whole were incredibly slick and animated, aided by colourful, authentic costumes and a very talented student orchestra. Vocal performances were strong all round, although at times some of the American accents were unconvincing and inconsistent. Lead characters Danny, played by Sam McMormick and Sandy, played by Sophie Louise Brown gave excellent performances, showcasing the diverse talent that musical theatre requires. Sandy’s transformation from shy and naïve to rock ‘n’ roll vamp, complete with Olivia Newton-John-esque skin-tight shiny black trousers, took Brown’s performance to another dimension. The highly comic performance from Ed Lewis-Smith, who played high school geek Eugene was also impressive, and had the audience laughing out loud. Arguably, Rizzo, played by Nicola Carter, and Kenickie, played by Daniel Sofaer, stole the show. Never wavering from their tough, edgy and often comic roles, the chemistry between the two was incredibly convincing.
The directors, Sam Daunt and Catrin Jones, chose to favour the original musical script. This decision of artistic integrity meant that the very famous and much loved song ‘You’re the One that I want’ from the film version was absent, which amounted to a slightly anticlimactic ending. However, a great deal of the scenes from the popular film could be recognised in the stage production.
The very bare set design slightly weakened the production, as did the frequent and slow scene changes, which interrupted the flow of the performance. However, due credit must be afforded to those responsible for the innovative and impressive act of bringing a car onto the stage, an unexpected but much appreciated surprise.
The Happily Ever After Society was true to its name as it left the audience happy energised and in high spirits. Their first production, although not flawless, succeeded in being charismatic and entrancing despite the indisputable challenge of staging this celebrated and large scale musical.