We all know the songs and have heard them a thousand times. “Hopelessly Devoted”, “Grease”, “Hand Jive” the list goes on. The film that is also a musical and still getting toes tapping 20 years later. Ignatians Musical Society is presenting it at Schonell Theatre in a run of non-Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Die-hard G&S fans may be disappointed but a new audience fond of musicals from the last three or four decades are happy.
So how is Ignatians adapting to this new wave of productions? The sets are good, choreography and dance great and so are the group ensemble numbers. The main difficulty seems to be in finding singers to fill the young roles. Singers who are not only youthful but vocally strong enough to fill the cavernous Schonell Theatre at the University of Queensland. Some of the soloists struggle. However, others shine through.
Michelle Mathews (Sandy) and Belle Reid (Bety Rizzo) are among the strong group of female vocalists. Stephanie Biggs as Marty enraptures all with “Freddy My Love” and other numbers. And Richard Murphy (Teen Angel, aka Pandora S Bocks) becomes an honorary lady for a most creative drag version of “Beauty School Drop Out”. Congratulations to director Lynne Wright for further blurring the blending the gender boundaries by casting Pip Loth as one of the Burger Palace Boys.
Marcus Costello stands out as Sonny and Chris Vernon as Eugene the nerd. Chris’s characteristation is strong and never falters. He not only provides a laugh but stands out as one of few who present a strong acting presence.
The cast deliver convincing accents and create entertaining caricatures of teenage Americans in the 1950s. They are fun, amusing and enchanting.
As always with Ignatians the chorus numbers are tight and strong. Even tighter and stronger is Sue Foster-Crilly’s choreography and the movement of the ensembled mass cast. The milk bar created by set designer Scott Bagnell is nothing short of stunning. Unfortunately some parts of the production are flawed, including poorly lit sections of stage and blocking that is either busy or masked.
But despite a few blights the fun, enthusiasm and aesthetics of Ignatians’ Grease will carry you away. Enjoy it. Tap you feet and have a few laughs because they’re there for the taking. And if you feel brave even sing along with the encore.