Surprises in ‘Grease’

Presented by Free Rain Theatre Company, Tuggeranong Arts Centre until September 25.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens

IF your only familiarity with “Grease” is the popular film, then this stripped-back production from Free Rain Theatre may provide some surprises, including how well it utilises the tiny Tuggeranong Arts Centre stage.

Director Fiona Atkin has chosen not to interpolate the hit songs from the film, but to stay with those written for the stage version, and with the assistance of some clever choreography by Miriam Rivzi, an imaginative set design by Steve Galinec, and a flurry of colourful costumes by Fiona Leach, has embraced the obvious restrictions of the stage to devise this confident, well-staged presentation.

Among the attractive hard-working ensemble portraying a group of teenagers grappling with the complexities of teenage pregnancy, gang violence and sexual exploration in the late ‘50s, Laura Dawson is delightful as Sandy, the good girl prepared to try a new strategy to win the affections of Danny Zuko (Bill Bouchier). Maigan Fowler is a laid-back Rizzo and Nick Valois displays strong presence as Kenickie. Other stand-outs include Lachlan Ruffy (Doody), Emily Ridge (Frenchy), Sam Needham (Sonny) and Lachlan Whan as the nerdy Eugene. Adrian Flor and Jarrad West make effective cameo appearances as Johnny Casino and Teen Angel.

Enthusiastic musical support, particularly for the dance numbers, is provided by John Yoon and his on-stage band, who will no doubt achieve a more satisfactory balance between singer and orchestra as the season progresses.

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