Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Friday 11th April 2014
Grease is the original "High School Musical" and the bright, retro design of Jeremy Tustin's production for CYGAMS this week escorts us warmly back to its 1950s setting. Such a familiar story, this classic musical is brought to life with some excellent touches - the full scale 'Greased Lightning' car being a delightful addition for Kenickie's big number.
Although the pace has a tendency to drop during the spoken scenes, this current CYGAMS incumbent definitely thrives on music and there are some stand-out numbers throughout the evening. 'Those Magic Changes' is given a confident rendition by Charlie Toland as the charming Doody, complete with golden backing girls. 'It's Raining on Prom Night' is styled as a powerful split scene duet between the Prom's vocalist, beautifully sung by Kathryn Peacock, and the lovestruck heroine Sandy, a doe-eyed characterisation by a talented Natasha Newton. The group numbers are also sung with style and enthusiasm, particularly the big Prom dance contest number 'Born to Hand Jive', led by Elliott Elder as Johnny Casino.
Henri de Lausun leads the cast as the charismatic Danny Zuko, singing with power and excelling in the dance numbers. Ben Wilton gives attitude as bad boy Kenickie, and Edward Bonney is an endearing Roger. The Pink Ladies include the dreamy Frenchy played with a cute grin by Monique Crisell, and Sophie Walker's intelligently characterised Marty, thoughtfully and confidently acted. A wonderfully funny dance break for geeky Eugene wins a deserved cheer for Jack Toland, maintaining his character with consistency.
It is very difficult to teach stage presence. It is the X-Factor, that extra something, and if a performer has it naturally it will draw the audience in completely. Tamara Anderson is ideally cast as the tough, confident Rizzo, and she shows a depth of feeling and understanding during her 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do' number that is a rare moment of genuine emotion in this otherwise frivolous show. She doesn't have the purest voice of the group and she isn't the best dancer, but the maturity she brings to her perfectly pitched characterisation is the highlight of the production.
Another unfailingly entertaining evening from this committed group of youngsters. Excelling musically as an ensemble, their next production - the sung-through Andrew Lloyd Webber dance show Cats - will suit them perfectly, playing at the Cramphorn in April.