Hinch Showbiz

Not quite the word

Not quite the word Photo Courtesy of: gordonfrostorganisation

IN A PREVIOUS LIFE on ‘foive to noine, foine and moild, 3Xwoy’ I got into trouble (yet) again with radio station management for my review of the new movie Grease.

I was cryptic. Said Grease was a tub of stale Brylcreem. The carpet strollers didn’t like it because 3XY had sponsored the premiere in 1978. I pointed out that didn’t preclude an honest opinion. I didn’t last long at 3XY.

I don’t know if I’ve improved with age but in a funny way Grease has. It helps that we now know all the songs and Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s black leather finale has had more air play than a blooper roll.

The umpteenth revival of the high school heartthrob musical is touring Australia and had its Melbourne opening on Sunday night at Her Majesty’s.

It got me wondering how tame and corny the original show must have been when it opened on Broadway in 1972. The main hit songs we can all sing along with now, weren’t in it. The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb wrote Grease is the Word for the film. (It hardly gets a look-in for this revival). And our own John Farrar wrote You’re the One That I Want and Hopelessly Devoted to You for Livvy – as part of the string of ONJ hits he concocted.

Greased Lightnin’, one of the original songs, is the showstopper in the first half (an impressive performance by Stephen Mahy) preceded by an excruciatingly bad start to the show which could have killed this production in its tracks.

If this were an out of town tryout I’d be advising them to drop the opener. They gave a superfluous Val Lehman as the school principal the unenviable and impossible task of trying to get the audience to sing along in a make believe schoolroom. It was chalk-down-blackboard stuff.

Before that we had Bert Newton in a pre-opener, pre-pre-opener as the Chicago platter chatter man, Vince Fontaine. It sort of worked, although Bert’s American accent drifted back to more than a hint of old Moonface on 3UZ.

Later, they mercifully played down the DJ’s sleazy performance as guest MC at the high school dance, hitting on the female students. I mean, there was a 60-year age difference here. Still, it was great to see Bert, post-heart bypass treading the boards yet again.

They would have been better off opening the show with the fantastic elevated, brassy thumping band. Whack! Straight into the overture.

The star is Rob Mills, as the slick-haired, pompadoured, leather-jacketed school stud Danny Zuko. The Travolta role. Mills has become a musical trouper. Wicked, Legally Blonde and now Grease.

He dances, he sings, he swaggers. He has energy. Another crucial role well played is that of the school bike (as they used to say) Rizzo. That part has to work and Lucy Maunder gets it.

There is more sexual tension between Kenickie and
his hot-rod than Mills and Gretel Scarlett.

The show stopper of the second half, in fact of the show, shamelessly belongs to Todd McKenney. His Teen Angel’s Beauty School Dropout is fantastic. He milks it, even gets in a touch of Peter Allen. McKenney loves it, the audience laps it up, and by the end of the run in March that 3min 50+ seconds will be 13 minutes.

The showstopper should be You’re the One That I Want. The song that shows the Goody Two Shoes Aussie girl, Sandy, and her metamorphosis from Sandra Dee clone into a hot blonde lycra-clad sexpot. I can’t agree with the Herald Sun reviewer who said she transforms into a ‘smokin’ hot minx’.

You don’t get the feeling that he is the one that she wants. There is more sexual tension between Kenickie and his hot-rod than Mills and his romantic co-star Gretel Scarlett. To be fair, their Summer Nights duet is good.

In spots, too many spots, the machinery creaks and could do with a little grease. But the dance numbers are frenetic and physically full on.

This John Frost production has the legs for a big audience run – for all ages. Even people as old as Bert.

 

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