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Campy and ridiculous, MUSE’s Grease is the most fun you’ll have in student theatre

As director Laura Balboni takes her audience on a field trip to Rydell High, there is certainly no lack of enthusiasm from the cast of MUSE’s Grease

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WHAT: MUSE’s Grease
WHEN: 22 — 25 March

WHERE: Seymour Centre, Everest Theatre

MUSE’s adaption of Grease is grand in scope and ludicrously campy, carried by charming performances and a genuinely funny script — it is almost impossible not to smile while watching actors having such obvious fun.

This is perhaps most obvious when experiencing the wonderful chemistry between the Pink Ladies: Rizzo, Frenchy, Marty, and Jan (a wonderful Ellie Jones, Lucy Allen, Phoebe Clark, and Rielly Dickson respectively). The four of them play so well off each other that I almost wish the musical had taken some strange turn towards a sisterhood-friends-forever style plot.

But the best performances of the night go to Phoebe Clark (for her perfect accent and hilarious line delivery), Blake Cunio as Doody (for making a done-to-death comic relief role genuinely endearing), and David Collins as the Teen Angel (for managing to steal the entire show with a single scene).

I would be remiss not to congratulate choreographer Stephanie Troost on some truly spectacular dance scenes — coordinating a cast that large to pull off some of those moves is an impressive feat. It takes careful work to make such meticulous choreography appear so natural and chaotic.

Nonetheless, Grease did have its flaws. Despite excellent individual performances by Isobel Rose and Tom Pegler as Sandy and Danny, there was a lack of believable chemistry between them. We’re told that they’re so in love with each other but almost never see them on stage together — they don’t even share their first kiss until midway through Act 2, by which point it feels contrived. I was more emotionally invested in the romantic subplot between Rizzo and Kenickie (Tom Crotty, who wins the award for skinniest jeans).

Furthermore, there were numerous audio issues, with more than one monologue broken by the startling squeal of a blown microphone. More seriously, during the larger musical numbers (Summer Nights, Grease Lightning, and Shaking at the High School Hop) it was almost impossible to hear any of the individual cast members over the chorus and band. Admittedly, sitting in the front row may have affected my experience in regards to the latter problem.

However, I couldn’t possibly end this review with such a negative tone. Grease delivers the strongest opening performance of a musical that I have ever seen — the audience clapped so hard at the end I think it’s given me tinnitus.

Grease left me feeling giddier and more whimsical than I’ve felt in weeks. The drive in cinema scene has the most hilarious moment I’ve ever witnessed in student theatre, featuring an extremely over-dramatic voice over from a film about radioactive werewolves.

To say that an entire cast held their performance together is a rare compliment in student theatre, but I have no qualms in saying so in regards to this musical.

Grease is fantastic — excellent vocal performances, strong acting, and wickedly campy humour makes for two hours well spent.

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