Review: Grease – Carlton Operatic – Nottingham Theatre Royal

four star

The latest musical theatre production by Nottingham’s Carlton Operatic is Grease – the musical, directed by Amanda Hall and choreographed by Rachael Rees with Jessica Royce as assistant director and assistant choreographer. Chris Rees is musical director for the live ten piece band. Musical arrangements for the show come courtesy of Jon Orton.

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Grease – the musical is a lively fun story set in the 1950s in the USA and enjoys a host of upbeat and romantic songs like Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee, Shakin’ At The High School Hop, Sandy and You’re The One That I Want. Most of the audience members will be familiar with these from the popular film version. Audience members that go along to experience something new will have a fun time with the fictional Rydell High School gang clapping along to the songs and enjoy the generally high production values alongside enthusiastic and talented performances from the young cast.

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The singing in Carlton Operatic’s show is of a high standard throughout and there is a consistent level of feeling for the period through the acting and excellent costumes. The action is often written tongue in cheek and the scripting can be a bit corny and implausible if you take it too seriously. Would these generally nice young guys really go out with baseball bats and iron pipes to beat up a rival gang? Does sweet demure Sandy really need to suddenly become a vampish femme fatale to attract her man Danny Zuko? In a less candy coated musical perhaps she would consider feminism as a stronger weapon. This however is a fluffy feel good musical not a show full of deep political meaning and this is why it remains a popular choice for musical theatre lovers. You can leave your deeper thinking brain at the cloakroom and enjoy the frivolity and fun of the performers clearly having as good a time as you. Grease has some very funny moments and the comedy here is handled well.

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The second half of the show certainly picks up the pace and energy from the first half. This is a good thing as the first night performance of Grease at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal struggles intermittently, in first half, through some minor lack of focus in the big choreographic numbers and the acting had the feel of a very good dress rehearsal. No doubt the overall performance energy of the Grease company will develop this week and go on to prove to their audiences why Carlton have the award winning reputation that they have developed and proudly maintained since their beginnings in 1921. It is also good to see this young cast perform on stage as they are the present and future stars of this amateur company.

From a huge talented cast there are some stand out performances: James Murray in his comical role as Eugene Florczyk; Judie Matthews – very believable as Betty Rizzo; Sam Hutchinson – the right side of 1950s young male bravura; Matt Wesson- vocally impressive as Teen Angel; Mark Coffey -Bainbridge spot on as Danny Zuko; Catherine Cunningham – engaging and vocally good as Sandy.

Michelle Smith nails the strict teacher Miss Lynch with just the right amount of hidden vulnerability coupled with academic severity and Ross Lowe as sleazy DJ Vince Fontaine steals the show with his moments of “Sincerely Folks” ‘insincerity’.

Amanda Hall and her creative teams have clearly worked exceptionally hard to produce what ultimately proves to be a very credible and overall enjoyable show. If you are looking for a fun, bright and breezy musical and a 50s nostalgia fest go see Carlton Operatic’s Grease.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

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