Starlight Musical Theatre
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by Margaret Chrystall
IT turns out that the musical Grease and Starlight Musical Theatre go together like – to quote the song – rama-lama-lama-ka dinga-da-dinga dong.
With a vibrant young cast and confident directing, this production at Eden Court till Saturday guarantees that if you loved the film, then this Grease is the one that you want.
The story of greaser Danny and good girl Sandy trying to make their summer romance into something more works against the backdrop of the raw life of 1959 American Rydell High School.
Sex, romance, possible teen pregnancy, working out a moral code for life, drag races, gang fights, a dance and – most important – being cool, are all part of the story.
And the Starlight cast's overall youth make the high school setting all the more credible.
As Sandy and Danny try to work out how to compromise enough to make their romance work, there's a night full of songs most of us know off by heart, vibrant dance numbers and some stunning vocal solos from the cast.
The musical itself has a slightly low-key opening – Rydell's reunion scene swiftly time-travelling back to1959 and the characters and songs you know, such as Grease.
But before all that, director Nicola Gray has firmly reminded her crowd of the here and now with black and white rehearsal pictures of Starlight in action shown big on screen, fading into film of the cast buzzing about in costume backstage at Eden Court, lining up by the stage for their entrance... as the curtain rises and there they are in glorious technicolour!
The big numbers – such as We Go Together, Shakin' At The High School Hop, Born To Hand Jive – are fast, energetic and move-perfect with strong group singing another bonus.
Both Alison Ozog and Alasdair Davidson live their parts and there's not one second you don't believe in them. The quality of their strong voices just adds to the 10 of out of 10 casting.
Alone on an empty stage – Danny singing Sandy in Kenickie's car Greased Lightnin' and Sandy in a chair then pacing as she sings Hopelessly Devoted To You – make a focused showcase of each of the lead's vocal and acting talents.
Though all the lead characters are something special, worth an extra mention is Ginno Conti as the sex-obsessed Sonny, a fizzing ball of energy who powers the Burger Palace Boys scenes. And Owen Thomson as string bean Eugene got huge laughs from the crowd with his hip-shaking antics.
When it comes to vocal treats, none is bigger than James Twigg's Teen Angel with Beauty School Dropout. His high notes and falsetto at the end are drop-dead gorgeous – with set and costume design to match.
Amy Youngson as Marty singing Freddy My Love and Roger Mathias Kremer performing Mooning are two more moments to look out for.
And another standout is Michelle Newell who shines as the rebellious Betty Rizzo – from Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee to a number that got one of the biggest cheers, There Are Worse Thing That I Could Do.
With Alison Ozog brilliantly capturing the uncertainty and sincerity of Sandy, it's hard at the beginning of the show to imagine her character's transformation at the end can match the slinky leather vixen we all remember from the movie – until her saintly Sandy becomes every inch a feisty sexy sizzler.
It's hard to find fault with this euphoric, professional-looking production – possibly the odd slow scene change is the only minus. And once again, the live musicians – this time perched on top of their balcony onstage – just add to what is one of the best productions Starlight has presented so far.
* Grease is on at Eden Court till Saturday night.