Posts Tagged ‘grease


Rob Mills Is…Surprisingly Good


Rob Mills Is…Surprisingly Good

Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland Cabaret Festival

& Mackay Entertainment And Convention Centre

Powerhouse Theatre

Sunday June 14 2015


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Rob Mills Is…Surprisingly Good. It’s a humble, slightly bemused premise on which to base a show (they’re the words of critics of course), and it works. Mills is sensational, surprising East Coast audiences with his self-deprecating humour, natural musical ability and charisma. Anyone who has seen Mills in a musical theatre production, as Jamie (The Last Five Years), Fiyero (Wicked), Warner (Legally Blonde) or Danny (Grease), won’t be nearly as surprised as the rest. Again, this time within the challenging realm of cabaret, Mills shows his mettle.


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.


– Poppy Eponine


robmillsparishiltonThe “not really a Rodgers and Hammerstein kind of guy” clearly has a ball sharing his personal stories, which stem from a childhood of singing and playing guitar, and a heap of pub gigs followed by his 15 minutes thanks to Australian Idol, and an eclectic assortment of rock songs and musical theatre faves. The show is loosely based around notions of Dancing Through Life (Wicked), [He] Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor Swift) and finding one’s Purpose (Avenue Q).


We’ve seen and heard a lot from Mills via TV and THOSE headlines, and he doesn’t shy away from any of it, in fact he relishes all of it (even a boy band medley moment, which is GOLD); he reminisces and laughs with us.



He’s unashamed and beyond reproach. He’s dancing through life, and why not?


Striking the perfect note, Mills opens with Live in Living Colour (Catch Me If You Can). He is at once disarmingly cute, irresistibly charismatic…although he takes a few minutes to comfortably settle into the space.


The Powerhouse Theatre is a good deal bigger than the intimate surrounds of RACV Noosa Resort for example, which is where you’ll catch him next, in a Supper Club version of the show during Noosa Long Weekend Festival after a final performance this weekend in Melbourne.


There are some static moments, easily fixed by a deep breath, a bolt of confidence and consistent pace (the show picks up after the whole Paris tryst bit), and I feel like the more intimate venues, which allow a closer connection with the audience, will serve Mills well. It’s as if this show has come too soon and also, at precisely the right time for Mills. His gorgeous larrikin characters from musical theatre are somehow at odds with the Rob Mills he professes he wants to be seen as. So there’s clearly another show in this, but it will need to be revealed through the execution of this one.






Penned by Mills and Natalie Garonzi, and directed by Tyran Parke, Mills and his hot band (hello, Kuki Tipoki!), led by MD Andrew Worboys, impress and delight the Queensland Cabaret Festival crowd.


A final cheeky appearance in the tight white pants of Fiyero seals the deal, in case we weren’t already, er, enamoured. The audacity and cheek of this increasingly confident performer even wins over sceptical Sam, who’s relinquished his +1 role many times, missing some previous performances about which Poppy and I have raved. After the show too, handing out “Surprisingly Good” buttons and posing for selfies by the bar, Mills proves he has the goods to stay at the top of the entertainment tree. So I think it’s time we dropped the “surprisingly good” and acknowledged that Rob Mills is sensational! I’ll look forward to seeing this show again, and whatever it is that must come after it.








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.








Guy Frawley caught up with the GREASE gang in the lead up to opening night. Guy loved the show and we did too. I defy anyone to not enjoy it!

You can read Poppy’s Perspective at the end of the week (there is school in the meantime…for us both!).

Now that the show has opened you’d better book! It’s a sell-out!


40 years after the first Australian production, producer John Frost is bringing back the “number 1 party musical” for a three-stop tour around Australia. Having opened on Sunday in Brisbane, the show is set to run for several weeks at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre before opening in Sydney (October 13th) and Melbourne (January 2nd).


The current version of the much loved musical is a direct transfer from London’s West End and explodes onto the stage with dazzling sets, bright costumes and a cast so bursting with energy and enthusiasm it’s impossible to look away. From the moment the band strikes up with the first bars until well after the show is over you’ll be humming along to the familiar soundtrack and wishing there was a re-wind button to give you the chance to relive the numbers over and over again.


We all know the songs and the story (whose childhood didn’t include endless reruns of the Paramount film?) and I’m sure that most of you will have seen the show before in a previous incarnation. But it’s the cast that keeps this show fresh and will keep you cheering for more when the final curtain closes.




Like John Travolta and Richard Gere who both made their break into professional theatre with minor roles in Grease before winning the role of Danny, Rob Mills was first seen in Grease back in the 2005 Arena Spectacular as Johnny Casino.

“It was great fun, but I always wanted to be a T-Bird during that production!” said Mills about his previous role.


After a month of rehearsals it’s obvious how excited both Rob Mills and Gretel Scarlet (Sandy) are to be playing to a live audience “I think just having the first audience in has been the highlight for me so far” he enthused and Scarlet was quick to agree “It’s just getting better and better every show…. We rely a lot on the audience in this show for comedy, for fun, for the vibe so it’s great to get out there on stage and to feel like we’re upping the ante each time.”




This is the sixth time that Frost has produced Grease and it looks like he has the casting down to a fine art, with the production crew assembling a cast, each and every one of whom appears to have been born to play their roles. They might make it look effortless on stage, but Gretel Scarlet makes it clear that winning their roles was no small feat “It was intense, my audition went over two weeks and 5 or 6 call backs…there was a panel of 10 producers and it kept going and going from there, it was a big process!”.




Bert Newton as Vince Fontaine, Val Lehman as Miss Lynch, Anthony Callea as Johnny Casino and Todd McKenney as Teen Angel have all been cast for star power and they all shine as brightly as you’d expect. McKenney as Teen Angel especially brought the house down in Beauty School Dropout leaving the audience screaming with applause, moments after they’d been screaming with laughter.


There are just 6 weeks of shows left before Grease must close in Brisbane and move south, tickets a selling fast so hand jive onto the QPAC website and book yourself tickets to the best rock’n’roll party in town.



Grease Media Launch

Meredith spoke with Rob Mills, Lucy Maunder and Anthony Callea on Monday night! Sorry, it’s taken a couple of days to let you know…


What a start to the week! Poppy and I haven’t been 100% so this week turned into early holidays for her (poor honey, not much of a holiday so far!), and on Monday our dear friends, Min Swan & Grant Goodrum, brought their darling baby boy SMITH into the world! At home! With Midwife Mary! I tell you what, I met Mary and if any further baby craziness ever happens in our house, Mary will be the first second third to know! I know, it sounds like I was totally there but I didn’t meet Smith (or Mary) until 2pm this afternoon (and then I couldn’t leave!). And yes, I did mention Samantha’s SMITH (you knew I would!), which was a reference I hadn’t dared put across social media in case it was taken by others to be an insensitive, shallow comment! Yes! Judgement! On Faceboook! Yikes! If you’re a BIG fan (see what I did there?) of Sex and the City, you’ll understand that this reference is a compliment and, well, IF ONLY there were more SMITHS in the world!



Anyway, you know that life gets in the way sometimes, of deadlines and shows and press launches, etc so on Monday night it was our pleasure to send Meredith McLean to the Grease launch event at QPAC. I’m just going to take this opportunity to thank Meredith and Michelle, who between them, get to everything we don’t! What an amazing couple of gals, to be studying, working, teaching, keeping up with family and friends, taking time out for themselves AND taking the time to share with us their thoughts about what they see! THANK YOU GIRLS! Also, a big thank you too, to Andy, Matty, Emilie and Reb who have covered so much for us.


Look, it might seem like yesterday’s news here sometimes but as we continue to cover as much of the arts industry near us as we can, and work towards creating a website that looks the way we want it to, and works the way we want it to, we are still working. That’s right. If you’ve found us already on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (with Pinterest currently proving to be the other other other work-in-progress), you may have noticed the occasional clue about our day jobs, and a heap about where we like to hang out and what we eat and drink too, because we are living, as much as we can, the entertainment lifestyle we love so much!


I was thinking about it again today, holding the baby and chatting away with Min for several hours; I was thinking, “Min, omg, you could totally blog all of this!” and at the same time I was thinking, “Or you could enjoy being with your brand new baby! Idiot!” (me not Min, obviously). If you’ve been with us for a while now, you will have noticed that we’ve lived this philosophy far longer than it’s taken me to realise it! Even if it’s a bit hit and miss, even if I feel guilty for delaying posting something that the girls have filed right after an event (sorry, girls!), I usually choose to live – and sometimes to sleep – first. That’s why you’re not seeing at the top there yet. That’s why you’re not seeing a full story about something here, despite the fleeting references about it via Twitter, or photos on Instagram. Seriously though, how good is Instagram?! (Social media is why I don’t have a manuscript yet!). But it’s all happening, eventually, and sometimes it’s when too much is happening that we feel nothing is getting done. WELCOME TO MY WORLD. I struggle with the focus part (and prioritising), but I’m trying harder to focus (and prioritise) here.


I’m excited about this year, not least because I’ll be attending Darren Rowse’s Problogger event (#PBEVENT) in September. I can’t wait to meet and to hear from a heap of the country’s best bloggers, at QT Gold Coast, where I have an OCEAN VIEW ROOM waiting to be shared with another blogger. Check this place out! Awesome! Of course, without a roomie I’ll need to do a few more days teaching or copy writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the teaching and the writing, I’ll take it! But I’d love a roomie too! If you’ve snapped up an early bird ticket and no accommodation, or if you know you’ll secure a new release ticket in May and you’re interested in sharing a funky room with me that weekend (the same weekend as Sam’s West Side Story is opening at Noosa Arts Theatre… Sorry, honey!), let me know! I figure I have a few more weeks to play around with the website, and get serious about what the hell else I’m doing (monetising it, starting a new blog, writing a book, writing a thesis, whatever) before the conference in September. What do you think? Is that fair?


Otherwise, dear roomie, please give me a good shake and tell me, “NO! NO, NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”



Right. I’m glad I told you that. Actually, that’s just the half of it. But now here’s Meredith’s sneak peak at Grease as promised!




Exciting things are coming to QPAC this August! I’m sure you’ve heard the word but I just love saying it – Grease is the word. When the cast sang that number I couldn’t help smiling.


With a stellar and versatile cast coming there are some old favourites as well as rising stars. From the King of Television Bert Newton to the young (and cute) Anthony Callea. Legally Blonde’s Rob Mills is set to the play the lead of Danny Zuko. This is his first chance in a lead role too but I have a good feeling about him. Gretel Scarlett is rising in her first leading role too as Sandy. But see, I’m not surprised they’ve cast mostly new stars.



The way I see it, theatre is moving forward and it needs some new energy.



The new generations are stepping up the stage and I’m glad for it. Grease is such a classic and well-known musical that they simply can’t rest on the laurels of the show. The actors need to give it new life, and I think they will.


After seeing the promo and hearing the tunes I got to speak with some of the cast too. Anthony Callea was beaming when he talked about playing the role of Johnny Casino.


He mentioned at the press launch that he didn’t do much theatre and was actually rather selective of his roles. I asked him to elaborate and tell me why Grease made the grade. Anthony said, “I grew up with Grease…who hasn’t heard of it? The show is just so much fun. I get to play such a great role, and it’s really easy too (laughs) don’t tell anyone I said that.” (Sorry Anthony!).


Lucy Maunder gets to have the real fun as Rizzo in this production of Grease. Her main reflection on the show was that she can’t wait to dance again, even if it means getting fit. I asked her if she’s getting on with such a versatile range of stars and she replied “It’s been a great crew. Don’t you think Rob?”
Rob, who had been intently listening instantly jumped in and said, “I hate her.” Before laughing and kissing Lucy on the shoulder.

It’s easy to see there’s already a family unit growing with these guys. I hope that energy comes out on the stage. The night was so relaxed and welcoming. Champagne went around as well a costume contest for the best Pink Lady and T-Bird.


I was too shy to dress up but I did take note that there will be some fun group discounts for the show.


The premiere is not until 27th of August 2013 but the early bird specials are rolling out so get excited and get ready to book!



It’s time to dust off your leather jacket and your poodle skirts because Grease is on its way to Brisbane!




Grease is the word!


GREASE is still the word, as Australian theatre producer John Frost yesterday revealed the cast and tour dates for his new multi-million dollar production of GREASE, which will open as an Australian premiere at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) on 27 August 2013.


In the lead roles of Danny and Sandy are musical theatre favourite Rob Mills and rising star Gretel Scarlett. Rob Mills made a name for himself in musical theatre performing Fiyero in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked in Melbourne and Sydney for two years, and will join GREASE after starring as Warner Huntington III in the hit musical Legally Blonde in Brisbane and Melbourne. Gretel Scarlett, who is a Queenslander, has played support roles in Wicked and Mamma Mia! and is excited to take on her first starring role.


Bert Newton returns to his radio roots to play the role of slick veteran disc jockey Vince Fontaine, while Todd McKenney dusts off his dancing shoes to star as Teen Angel, the good-looking, falsetto-voiced, Fabian lookalike. The role of All-American, rock-star student at Rydell High, Johnny Casino, has gone to Anthony Callea, returning to the musical theatre stage after success in Rent and Wicked.


Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies, will be played by Lucy Maunder (Dr Zhivago, The Threepenny Opera), and Kenickie will be played by Stephen Mahy (Jersey Boys, I Will Survive). The cast also includes Francine Cain (Frenchy), Chris Durling (Doody), Sam Ludeman (Sonny), Duane McGregor (Roger) and Laura Murphy (Jan).


GREASE is one of my favourite musicals, and with this top draw cast of musical theatre stars I have no doubt it will again be everyone’s favourite party musical,” John Frost said.


John Frost continued “I’m thrilled that Rob Mills will be our Danny, straight from his success in Legally Blonde, and that we have found a new leading lady in Gretel Scarlett. Both Rob and Gretel gave sensational auditions, and our UK creative team knew instantly that they were the ideal Danny and Sandy. And it’s wonderful again to be working with the wonderful Todd McKenney, the talented Anthony Callea and, for our sixth musical together, the irrepressible Bert Newton. What can I say about this cast – You’re The One That I Want!”


GREASE will open at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre Brisbane on August 27, with seasons to follow at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from October 13, and at her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from January 2, 2014.


Grease. Image by Damian Shaw.

GREASE is the Number One Party musical, featuring all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’ and many more.


So get ready to dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and take a trip to a simpler time as ‘bad boy’ Danny and ‘the girl next door’ Sandy fall in love all over again.


Tickets on sale from Monday 8 April at 9.00am. To book go to or phone 136 246