Grease - DOS
They're the ones that YOU want !!
Following on from last Autumns spectacular, Strictly Musicals, Darlington Operatic Society launched their Spring show, Grease, last night to huge applause, standing ovations and no shortage of critical acclaim.
Every year, DOS leave their audiences wondering how they can possibly top their most recent show, and every year they go one better - well with this show they've totally upped the bar when it comes to professional production values, great voices and bags of family fun. Packed with all the classic songs known and loved from the biggest musical film of the 70's, this is much more than a simple sing-a-long stage version of the Travolta & Newton-John legend. The choreography keeps it fresh and lively while the slight change in the musical running orders stops any complacent viewer from shuffling "I know what's coming next". As for the cast, everyone on the stage looked like they had accomplished a childhood dream to 'sing Grease' on stage in front of a full house.
The leads, Michael Hirst and Selena Blain managed what so many since John & Olivia have tried and failed - they really gave you the impression they were into each other and the chemistry was there for all to see, bubbling under. Michael had the swagger of Travolta, helped in no small part by his proud jaw line, cheeky smile and smooth moves while Selena (who many will remember for being Aerial in Strictly) had all of Newton-John's candy kitsch and faux innocence until the bg switcheroo at the end. I don't want to spoil just how amazing Selina looks as sexy Sandy, but I will steal a quote from a previous show, The Producers, when I say "you can't see it but we're giving you a standing ovation."
Of course, there are more than just the two love birds in this show - Nick Holmes as Kinickie is perfect for belting out "Grease Lightning" and it is very clear that he has studied all the words to ensure his 'actions match up to their meanings'. Katie Carter, making her DOS debut as Rizzo had a great first act in which she stays very much the matriarch of the gang, slightly aloof, cocksure and more mature than the other girls, but it was halfway through the second act, with her solo of "There are Worse Things..." that Katie stopped the whole auditorium dead in its tracks. She managed to bring out Rizzo's vulnerability perfectly, pealing away her protective shell to show a glimpse of the little girl underneath, before putting the barriers back up and returning to the hard Rizzo of before.
One of the great things of a stage show over a film is that there is more licence to allow some characters to relax and have bit a more fun - nonemoreso than Andrew Hamilton and Hayley Walker who, as Roger and Jan, brought the house down with their mickey taking and comedic ribbing, especially as they extol the virtues and love of lunar pastimes. Even when she is not front and centre, Hayley adds so much to her character - at times I found myself watching her instead of centre stage and laughing at her extra little antics.
Another who made me hope she would be in all the scenes was Claire Williams, playing Patty - she is just so adorably high octane that you want to box her up, put her on a shelf and keep her for those days when you're feeling a little low - she is a pocket rocket of energy, the perfect Little Miss Goody Goody and a great mover to boot.
The set design and choreography are all fantastic and show true ingenuity in how to make the most of stage space while the costumes remain true to the feel of the film without being mere copies - that said, Glyn Bigham in his all white suit was a heavenly vision straight out of the (Beauty) school of Frankie Avalon.
Of course, Grease is habitually a younger persons show, it is, after all, set in High School, but that's not to say that there weren't parts for all ages of the society. It is a great testament to the all the cast of DOS that so many familiar faces from Strictly Musicals were present in the company, and even though they weren't taking leads this time they looked like they were still having a fantastic time.
Looking round the theatre before curtain up and talking to many at the interval, it was obvious that the majority of the audience were there to see Grease based on a love of the film, however at final curtain everyone agreed that this performance was every bit as good as the movie and then some - there is a far better connection to the characters when you can see them live in front of you but more than that, you can feel their total enjoyment in what they are doing; the audience feed off the actors enthusiasm who in turn respond to the crowd - perpetual energy has at last been found.
The final curtain call was met with standing ovations throughout, well deserved by all on stage and even more so by Directors Martyn Knight, Joanne Hand and Michael Trotter. I hope that this great theatre has strong foundations because on this showing there will be many more throughout the 10 night run.
Grease, by Darlington Operatic Society, is on at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 12th April - there are still a few tickets left but hurry - see the DOS website for more details