Skip to main content

Review of Grease by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The last two years have been an interesting path for the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at the Derngate. In 2014 their presentation of South Pacific was a remarkable feat which stood up so well in comparison with the soon to be professional staged Oklahoma! Then 2015 they took what might have been quite a gamble with a much less known title Sister Act, despite it being a huge film hit of the past, the musical was somewhat less known. It was a gamble that unquestionably paid off as the theatre was filled and it remains not just the very best amateur production of a musical I have seen, but superior in so many ways to professional touring shows.

So maybe, just maybe, 2016's decision to present Grease as their big show has got to be a disappointment. I myself up to seeing this show hadn't seen Grease in a theatre live, but a lot of people have and I have spoken to many who were not going to this simply because they are, in my own contortion of their thoughts Greased out. However, perhaps it still doesn't matter as the night I saw it, the Derngate was absolutely packed to the rafters and everyone was clapping, cheering, hand jiving and for one person almost falling out of their circle box. I wasn't quite with them, but I was still enjoying pretty much every minute in the presense of a 1000 plus Grease groupie.
The cast of Grease
Grease, most famous, and perhaps too famous for the 1978 film that catapulted John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to fame, isn't quite the same beast on stage. The incredible songs from Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey are all there, but seeing it on stage shows what a really strange and lightweight show it is. Many of the songs don't really drive the story forward, what there is of a story, and it all sort of collapses in the second act into a musical concert with a bit of hand jiving. There are some also startling absences in the musical version, which do not really help, including the famous car race which makes the earlier performance and appearance of Greased Lightnin' null and void, as we never see this wonder car again at the race. Also the brilliant character of Eugene (an excellent Blake Robinson for what he has to perform) has been downgraded to be almost irrelevant. It all seems to leave a sort of half baked version of the famous film.

However despite all the negatives, what you do get it as always from NMTC, is a quite brilliantly presented and pretty much perfectly performed piece. The musical numbers are sublime, the sets are deliciously extravagant and cast and crew put everything into it at all times.
L-R: Susie Pack as Rizzo, Lotti Franks as Marty, Jay Snedkar as Jan, Hannah Taylor as Frenchy
From the cast the ever reliable Susie Pack as Rizzo and Dan Hodson as Kenickie are once again the driving force, with Susie giving a brilliantly performed There Are Worse Things I Could Do, while Dan absolutely nails the classic Greased Lightin'. Ella Styles also absolutely perfects the frantic fruitcake that is Patty and steals each scene she appears in with ease.
Rachel James as Sandy
However Grease for the best part is about Sandy and Danny, and Rachel James and George Johnston generally don't let the side down. Rachel wisely avoids trying to be too much like Newton-John and successfully plays it her own way and her performance of the challenging Hopelessly Devoted To You is simply gorgeous. George's Danny, I have got to be honest, didn't work quite as well for me. There was an awful lot of the cool and swagger missing from what I remember and feel Mr Zuko should have. Not a bad performance in anyway, but one that I really think could have been a bit more "yeah man!".
George Johnston as Danny
Director Martyn Knight brings it all togther brilliantly to fill the stage with the ensemble pieces filling the large stage. Scene shifting is once again handled swiftly and professionally as the pack of people shift the cleverly constructed set. This is complemented brilliantly with the wonderful vibrant colours and glowing backgrounds. Costumes also are sublime, helping create the absolute full package for the fifties world and a more professionally slick presentation than a few professionals tours I have seen. Finally special mention must go to musical director Graham Tear again, who with his ten strong band fill the theatre with those brilliant tunes.
Centre: Dan Hodson as Kenickie and cast
I feel sure that Grease still remains an odd choice for NMTC, especially as the group has to rely on actors playing well out of their age groups to perform. They succeed with aplomb, however I am not entirely sure Grease, in it relatively flimsy state, is worth that effort with so many other better shows out there to plunder. It still though remains an entertaining night out, and it clearly sells seats, but as someone who will remain nameless actually said to me about the show, "it's just Grease", and despite having written up a few of these reviews, I don't think I can sum it up any better than that.

««««


Performance reviewed: Thursday 27th October, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate).

The Northampton Musical Theatre Company perform Grease until Saturday 29th October, 2016. They have a website which can be found at http://www.nmtc.me.uk/, while they are also on Twitter @theNMTC and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NorthamptonMusicalTheatreCompany

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Photos by redrex Photography

Popular posts from this blog

Review of The Full Monty at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The 1997 film The Full Monty is one of the best regarded of relatively recent British films, due to it being both a warm and emotionally strong tale, solid comedy and a wealth of acting talent, and it's no surprise that its very theme has spawned an immensely successful touring stage version. It literally overflows with the opportunity to be performed in front of a, probably mostly female, audience, well, the final scene does, in any case. However, what of the rest, and how about for a male audience member? So to speak. Well, it was time to find out.

The first thing that is apparent from The Full Monty stage show, is how faithful this is to the film. Much of the show is what you have seen if you have seen the film, but translated cleverly to the stage, it feels just that little more real and gritty as well. It opens with a nicely staged scene of darkness and flashes of a torch as Gaz (Gary Lucy), his son Nathan (Fraser Kelly) and Dave (Kai Owen) break into their former factory wo…

Review of The Rocky Horror Show at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

Seeing the 46-year-old Rocky Horror Show at the theatre for the first time is quite an experience on many levels. First and foremost as a regular theatregoer, the audience, even on a relatively demure evening of a Monday, is something you would never really experience at a theatre beyond this show. Many are dressed up (even on that demure Monday), and so many are so in tune with the show, that these regular fans have become entwined within it. They know every word of the script, they contribute to it, they enhance it, often they make Richard O'Brien's already adult content into something much more adult. It's a revelation of experience, much before a newbie such as myself even considers the show.

Laura Harrison's beautifully clear rendition of Science Fiction/Double Feature sets the scene for some generally excellent performances of O'Brien's classic tunes, in a musical which is clearly audible, sadly not something that always happens with many productions.

Ou…

Review of The Same Faces - 27th August, 2016 at The Black Prince, Northampton

My one and only other previous experience of live improv was in the hands of the venerable Mischief Theatre team and a performance of Lights! Camera! Improvise! in London in 2015. It was a heck of an evening to see them weave a movie from a mixture of inputs from the audience, and was quite a team for The Same Faces to follow.

Founded by Tom Young, The Same Faces have been performing in Leicester and Northampton for a number of years and have swelled their ranks of performers to allow a huge amount of variety to not only the show but those bringing it to the stage. For my first encounter with the group, the performers I was to see were Tom Young himself who was joined by Dave Gotheridge, Jen Kenny, Thomas Lawrence and Becky Moore and musician David Burton. The format is simple, through a series of games the audience provide key ingredients to allow the performers to bring the stage alive with their impulsive talent. These can vary from the very simple addition of numbers or colours, to…