Review: Grease: The Arena Experience17 April 2018
It’s raining outside. Stormy even. And, far in the distance, you can almost hear the faint chanting of “Grease lightning”.
Among the flared midi skirts, high ponytails and black leather jackets, Grease: The Arena Experience unfolded. Grease, to most of us, is a cult classic, a phenomena introduced to us by our parents with the tagline, “its like our version of High School Musical; trust me- you’ll love it.” Although advertised as a musical, the storyline almost disappeared behind the musical numbers; not something that fans of the music would complain about.
What first stood out about the show, before it had even begun, was producer Tim O’Connor’s choice of venue. Hisense Arena traditionally is not the type of stage one would expect a musical as big as Grease to be set on, however, it provided a fresh new take on a timeless classic. The absence of a set, as well as the limited use of props allowed the music to take centre stage, which, as a huge fan, was refreshing to see. Perhaps this was a strategic move by O’Connor, to allow for the focus to be on what it should; the music.
The vocals were nothing short of amazing. The range and authenticity of performances of all the cast was impressive to see, and the authenticity of the performances was able to be felt. The presence of drag icon Courtney Act, as the first ever ‘male’ Teen Angel was everything that we didn’t know we needed in a production of Grease. The lack of a live band was surprising, as due to the lack of set and props, I assumed there would be live musicians, with performers instead relying on audio playback.
The support of a large ensemble of roughly 500 amateur performers was an interesting addition to the show. At times, the ensemble felt a little overpowering, with members screaming in excitement to listen to the T-Birds sing. However, they provided the necessary bulk to fill up the ground space of the arena.
Although a more stripped down version of the original film was refreshing to watch; one main thing that the casting team borrowed from 1960s America, was the lack of diversity on stage, especially in the main cast. Here’s to hoping that the next season of Grease: The Arena Experience is slightly less white than Rizzo’s shorts.