18 October 2013

I got me some culture tonight.

Musicals aren't for everybody.  People that lack the capacity for joy, who hate tunes and abhor dance - they don't like them much.  People that prefer their stage to feature the tortuous journey that is 'Death of a Salesman' - literary excellence, performed to death in front of an entire generation of high school drama students, they scorn the musical as flippant, lighthearted, not 'real' theatre.

Well I say ptooey and other such things to that.

The girlfriends and me
The hip swivel may have started with Elvis, but nobody owned that shit like John Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease.  The musical had it's opening night in Sydney tonight and I blatantly sold my soul for four free tickets and a girl's night out to be there.  I mean c'mon.  Grease. The musical. Girlfriends. A night out.

What bit would you have said no to?

Exactly.

Grease the movie was iconic in so many ways. The raw defiance of Rizzo, the inner geek of Zuko and a ridiculously catchy array of tunes.  Blue moons.  Sandy never quite said "Stud" right and I know it's our Olivia but seriously, much like Andie McDowell's "Is it raining I hadn't noticed" line in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Olivia's "Stud" has always been a jarring note in an otherwise fabulous cinematic experience. Not to mention she did that ridiculous tongue thing which Miley Cyrus has been ripping off lately and quite frankly, Olivia should apologise to the world for influencing Miley in that way.  

Anyay, I digress, Sandy in the musical should also have avoided saying "Stud". Grease the musical is more loving tribute than replica of the movie and for that I'm very grateful.  The musical is a joyous celebration of an era and an icon, played to perfection on nearly every level.  Sandy's "Hopelessly devoted to you" is just brilliant and Rizzo's raw defiance mixed with melancholy in "There are worse things I can do" had me falling in love with Stockard Channing all over again.  Yes. Stockard.  Is there a better tribute than being so awesome at a character that it completely evokes the original that you knew and loved?

I never wanted to be Sandy. I always wanted to be Rizzo.  That attitude. That sneer. That strut.

(Stars dreamily at  near empty wine glass in a clear case of reminiscence, then returns to typing furiously) 

Kenickie is a little bit sexy in the musical and that little bit edgier than Rob Mills' Zuko.  The characteristic self
Grease Lightning (Media Call)
conscious chuckle is done with due deference but overall Rob is a little bit too nice to be Zuko.  I wanted to ruffle his hair and tell him to go home and stop pretending to be an arse.  But that said, Sandy was a bit stroppier and a little less wet than in the original and that really worked in the show.  Still, if Kenickie was to have driven past thrusting to Grease Lightning I suspect the entire female part of the audience would have followed him in a Pied Piper-esque manner. And that should be Zuko, don't you think?.  

Bert Newton, Anthony Callea and Todd McKenney all feature in made to measure cameos that made me love them all a little bit when normally I don't really think about them much at all.  The nods to their 'other lives' in each performance made for a fabulous comedic salute and Todd's description during media call of his character as "part mirror ball, part Michael Douglas and part Liberace" was insightful genius. 

And you know something, Bert's Vince is a genteel lecherous played to perfection.  I wanted to yell "Slimey Bastard" and "I love you Bert" at the same time.  And I really wasn't expecting to dig the Bert in that particular character.  The show was almost stolen though in the early part of the show with three chorus dancers in a shower routine - one of many brilliant examples of the exemplary choreography and one of the earliest moments I wish I'd grown up to be a professional dancer in a stage musical.  

Obviously I didn't take this picture of finale
because photography was banned
And this is where Grease the musical excels.  There isn't one star in the movie.  The music, the choreography, the chorus, the leads - all of it combines in one riotous tribute which felt like it passed in but the blinking of an eye.  Like a party that ends at curfew, Grease left me feeling pepped and energised and wanting to stay longer.

Also, I want to learn to hand jive.  Because if that dancing is what hand jiving is about - I want me some.

Would I recommend the show? Hell yeah.

Would I pay to see it? Hell to the yeah

Would I say that watching it made me a better person? Well "there are worse things I could do, than fall in love with a show or twooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"



* Thanks to entertainME, Lyric Theatre and all the fabulous cast, crew and orchestra from Grease for a great night out.

* In the interests of full disclosure I have to let you know that I have performed on stage in The Canberra Gangshow in my younger years as a Turkey, Cow 3 and the Roman solider too small for a doublet, so I just wore a singlet (boom tish).  So I'm pretty much an expert theatre critic as a result and my recommendations are highly sought after by some.