John Frost with Elizabeth Williams, Power Arts, QPAC, Jerry Frankel, Two Left Feet Productions, and SEOL & Company

QPAC Lyric Theatre

20 August – 6 October 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


GREASE Image by Jeff Busby

Everybody loves Grease! They really do. No matter what anybody does with this clunky iconic show, WE LOVE IT!


I feel like I shouldn’t even have to tell you to go see it because this is guaranteed quality: a John Frost production of a modern classic that just keeps on keeping on, with an all Australian star cast who make the characters their own, fabulous production values and MD Stephen Amos out there in front of a real live rockin’ onstage band! (The slick new musical arrangements are by Mike Dixon). And then of course, there’s the glossy souvenir program, the cool merch and the memories. What’s not to love?


GREASE Image by Jeff Busby


For this revival, Frosty brought over the English director, David Gilmore, and choreographer, Charlotte Bull, to work with our Australian cast, which features Gretel Scarlett as Sandy, Rob Mills as Danny, Lucy Maunder as Rizzo and Stephen Mahey as Kenickie. In addition to that stellar team, we see Todd McKenney as Teen Angel (he brought the house down on opening night!), Val Lehman as Miss Lynch and Bert Newton as Vince Fontaine. Anthony Callea makes a high voltage cameo in Act II as Johnnie Castle, pint-sized rock and roll special guest star at the Rydell High School dance.


Francine Cain nails Frenchy, a role she has coveted since childhood, and Laura Murphy (Jan), Chris Durling (Doody), Sam Ludeman (Sonny) and Duane McGregor (Roger) bring the rest of the gang to life.


If you don’t know it from personal experience, and you don’t appreciate it as it’s happening, you could easily mistake Grease as a basic high school musical that’s a bit naff, skirting around serious teen issues such as Queen Bees and Wannabees, peer pressure and teenage pregnancy. This production deals with everything very nicely, very neatly indeed, keeping the focus on fun.


More than anything, this Grease is FUN!




We’re able to identify instantly the characters we love – and love to hate – and each is reconsidered by the artist, a fresh take on old familiar faces. It’s much more difficult to fill well-known shoes. We expect things of them, don’t we? And we have our expectations of the show that we know and love so well. We expected to do the original Greased Lightning choreography in our seats – Poppy did it anyway – and we anticipated the hand jive (we even practiced it at Interval!), but everything old is new again, and you’ll find, as we did, that this production is refreshingly different.


GREASE Image by Jeff Busby


With three consecutive opening numbers, Poppy enjoyed learning the famous song We Go Together from Lehman, who set the high school scene by referring to the lyrics on a blackboard and giving us the pre-show warning re mobile phones and cameras. She also enjoyed the petite Dagwood dogs and hotdogs, and meeting everybody and posing for photos at the after party. As you do when you’re a seven-year-old theatrical old hand. This is what Poppy told me about Grease


I loved how they put the word grease in the hair of the logo. It made it exciting as soon as we sat down. The direction was beautiful and the song Sandy almost made me cry in Mum’s lap. Sandy is a beautiful song and Rob Mills sang it perfectly. I’m sure I saw the movie, but I thought this version was much better than the movie.


I wish everybody in the world could see Grease. It would make them happy and it would tell them about life. Actually, it would let them see life. Mum asked me why I think this story is an important story to keep telling and I think it’s because, we can get ready and prepare ourselves for the rest of our life when we see stories like Grease on stage. Mum was Rizzo and Dad was Kenickie in 2004, 2 years before I was born but let’s not get off track with my birthday, let’s stay on track with Grease. Well, now it is Mummy’s turn.




If you think you’re over it, and you’re sure you’ve seen Grease too many times already, think again! Grease is timeless and the rockin’ band is a highlight in itself. You’ll love those songs all over again. While this production is faithful to the 1950s and our nostalgia for an era that has been so romanticised (but isn’t every era?), there is something for all ages here. Being a parent who’s never shied away from discussing the tougher issues with the seven year old, I’m hoping that many younger people will get along and experience this production.


If you’re not as open to the younger kids getting a glimpse at the more challenging parts of life (you know your kids hang with other kids and watch TV right?), you’d better book for Tim Lawson’s gorgeous production of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which comes to an end in Brisbane in November. In the meantime, if you don’t mind putting rose coloured glasses between you and the teen angst it’s famous for you can’t miss Grease.


It’s all good, and one of the best short scenes in between iconic songs is when Marty divulges the news that Rizzo is pregnant. It’s unrushed and sensitive. And Maunder’s There Are Worse Things I Could Do is certainly a highlight, but there are many and everyone will have a favourite number. It’s good old-fashioned family fun with an amazing new cast and the satisfying flair of multiple millions in its appearance. This is the Grease that we know and love, yes, but it’s been given a shiny new coat of paint. And it’s dazzling, and even better than before.



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