Above – Keanu Gonzalez, Joseph Spanti and T-Birds. Cover – Annelisa Hall and Joseph Spanti. Photos – Jeff Busby.

T he Story of Grease won hearts on Broadway in 1972 and was then forever etched into history by the movie adaptation in 1978. Olivia Newton-John gave us Sandy, the girl next door and John Travolta epitomised the cliche bad boy heart-breaker.

What these two did so well, right from the start, was let us believe that there was more to them than met the eye. Sandy was sweet and innocent but she was also spirited and flirtatious and wanted to be loved. Danny, with his leather jacket and devil may care attitude carried his comb in one pocket, but in the other he carried his heart. Not wanting to show it to his macho friends but capable of caring and wanting to be better.

And they were not not the only ones to make connections with the audience. The characters and the music have fans who are ‘totally devoted’ and that was the audience on opening night for Grease the Musical at Capitol Theatre in Sydney. It is a complex line to walk. The challenge lies in striking a delicate balance – satisfying the audience's expectations while also offering something fresh to avoid direct comparisons.

Grease the Musical did not disappoint. Annelise Hall as Sandy and Joseph Spanti as Danny carried the thread of naughty and nice from the movie and on to the stage. Watching Spanti strutting, all cool cat without a care and then tumbling into puppy love and back again showed depth to his character.

When it comes to the sparks of Grease the Musical you can’t go past Mackenzie Dunn as Rizzo and Keanu Gonzalez as Kenickie. These two were dynamite and their performances were explosive. Dunn's portrayal of Rizzo was captivating; from the instant she stepped onto the stage, she embodied the essence of the character effortlessly. Rather than imitating Stockard Channing's iconic rendition from the movie, Dunn brought her own unique interpretation, paying respectful tribute to the original. As a character she grew as the story unfolded. Her rendition of ‘There are worse things I could do’ was superb.

And then there is Gonzalez as Kenickie. He radiates charisma and can be equally crass and sexy all in the same moment. His dancing in the infamous Greased Lightnin’ number was magnetic and throughout the performance you’ll find yourself seeking him out in the crowd.

Yes this show is all about raging teenage hormones, sexual innuendo and the complexities of trying to figure out who you are while trying to keep your knickers on or take them off, but the stage production remembers that humour is what gets most of us through it all.

The best example is the song 'Mooning'. In the movie Danny dances to 'Blue Moon' and several of his peers moon the cameras at the highschool dance. In the stage show there is a character called Roger, played by Andy Seymour. His nickname is Rump as he is known to pull down his pants and moon the world when the mood fancies him. He sings the song 'Mooning' to Jan, played by Caitlin Spears, another bombshell singer and performer. It reminds us to laugh and find comedy in the convoluted world of growing up.

Marcia Hines plays Teen Angel and she has the perfect amount of sass and style to convince anyone to go back to high school. Patti Newton and Jay Laga’aia add to the stellar cast as Miss Lynch and Vince Fontaine.

The leather jackets and costumes grounded us in the Grease we love. The outfits were fresh and lively with bright colours and matched the characters perfectly. The bright red pit stop crew during Grease Lightnin’ added flare and fun and if there was ever a costume sale for a show I wanted to attend, this would be it.

This production of Grease the Musical was playful, powerful and polished and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the story and the characters. Now I want to find a Pink Ladies jacket, put on some music and dance the night away.

Event details

John Frost for Crossroads Live Australia presents
Grease the Musical
book, music & lyrics Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey | additional songs Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis and Scott Simon

Director Luke Joslin

Venue: Capitol Theatre | 13 Campbell St, Haymarket NSW
Dates: until 1 June 2024
Tickets: from $69.90
Bookings: greasemusical.com.au

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