Grease – Review

Mar 12 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   A smooth operation

Church Hill Theatre
Tues 11 – Sat 15 February 2014

The Bohemians’ snappy and agile production of Grease fairly flies across the stage at the Church Hill, providing a great deal of deftness and dexterity allied to boisterous amusement.

Rachel McCorkell (Sandy) and the Pink Ladies. Photo © Richard Moir

Rachel McCorkell (Sandy) and the Pink Ladies. Photo © Richard Moir

Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s 1971 musical tale of a US high school is best known, of course, through the 1978 film version, although the movie concentrates more on the central will-they-won’t-they romance between greaser Danny and new-girl-in-town Sandy to the partial detriment of other characters.

In truth, the film is preferable in some ways, with several of the best known numbers originating there; a couple of these have subsequently been added to the stage version. The story, despite its references to various vices and teen pregnancies, can now seem quaint rather than dangerous.

It is certainly not the most intelligent or subtle of musicals, but can still provide some rollicking entertainment, as it certainly does on this occasion.

Director Colin Cairncross has a 40-plus ensemble at his command, and while such huge numbers can make the stage look uncomfortably crowded, the chorus is used intelligently. Nicky Pyrah and Simon Hunter’s choreography makes clever use of the numbers and space, with some simple and effective steps consistently well done, and sufficient room to breathe for the more ambitious numbers.

The fact that when You’re The One That I Want finally arrives, it seems a little undercooked, only goes to highlight the quality of what has gone before.

The standard of singing is also high, with the ensembles being tuneful and clear. Cairncross and Musical Director Ian Monteith-Mathie have obviously put a great deal of time and thought into the preparation of these without sacrificing any of the fun and enjoyment.

Managing to appear spontaneous while obviously being so well-drilled is no small achievement. The first-half closer of We Go Together, with its nonsense doo-wop lyrics being performed in perfect synchronisation, is only one of several praiseworthy moments.

This quality is carried over into the solos. Rachel McCorkell (Sandy) is an engaging performer who manages to put her own stamp on the role with a consistent tone and subtle variation, giving Hopelessly Devoted To You real emotional pull. She shares with Laura Addison (‘bad girl’ Rizzo) considerable vocal power that is sparingly used and is all the more effective as a result.

“versatile and effective”

Rizzo’s big number There Are Worse Things I Could Do comes across as particularly sympathetic because of what is being held back as much as what is being belted out. Rizzo’s fellow Pink Ladies, Lori Flannigan (Marti) and Ellie Sager (Frenchie) are also versatile and effective performers.


Fraser Jamieson (Danny) is a far more affable, lovable Danny than might be expected, being a long way from most people’s idea of a 50s gang member, but his likeability added to a keening voice makes him a more than plausible matinee idol.

This amiability is also present in Ross Cockburn and Paul Inglis as his fellow greasers Doody and Sonny. Perhaps it is carried too far and, with the singing overall being slightly stronger than the acting, there is a danger of it all being a little lightweight. This is effectively counterbalanced by Thomas McFarlane as Kenickie, who is not quite as strong vocally but much better at evoking the raffish, slightly dangerous air of a would-be hoodlum.

It is the comedy, however, which proves the strongest element with the duet between Roger (Lewis McKenzie) and Jan (Gemma Banks) on Mooning being a particular highlight. Each featured performer takes their turn to shine with no noticeable weak links and consistently good accents. Lily Cullen (Patti), Greg Lamb (Eugene) and Kirsty Wotherspoon (Blanche) provide well-judged moments of comedy, while Jonny Farley’s DJ Vince Fontaine is suitably oleaginous and Alison Wood dances up a storm as Cha Cha. Kyla Shirlaw’s prickly Miss Lynch and Eddie McDowell’s smalltown rocker Jonny Casino are also carefully considered performances.

Gareth Brown’s Teen Angel is particularly effective in Beauty School Dropout, accompanied as he is by some simple yet striking lighting effects that epitomise technical director Malcolm J. Burnett’s excellent work. Technically, the production is top class, with the sound in particular being clear and some complicated lighting cues being handled with the minimum of the fuss. The set is extremely clever – perhaps too much so, as at times the resetting of its elements between scenes could be a fraction smoother.

However, this fails to derail the flow of the show, which keeps up a level of energy, consistent skill and sheer enjoyment throughout. Overall it is that hugely infectious sense of fun that makes the evening such a success. Well-practised as they obviously are, the cast are still evidently in it for a good time just as much as the sell-out audience.

Running time 2 hours 25 minutes including interval
Run ends Saturday 15 February 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
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