Manawatu Theatre Society
Regent on Broadway
Director: Steve Sayer
Excitement swelled throughout the foyer at the Regent on Broadway for Friday night’s opening of Grease’performed by the Manawatu Theatre Society, and a broad demographic of people filled the seats of the theatre. The lights dimmed and the band started with a roar as the curtains rose, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported back in time to find Olivia Newton-John from the movie version of Grease standing on the stage.
Olivia’s doppelganger playing Sandy was actually Georgia Bergeson—recently seen as a Survivor NZ contestant— who with her petite frame and perfectly sweet Aussie accent (if Aussie accents could ever sound sweet) had us all falling for her charms. Georgia showcased her excellent dancing skills, very natural movement, and her tender singing solos were well articulated.
The show really accelerated to life when the classic ‘Greased Lightning’ scene roared into action complete with a magically transforming car—I was distracted by the dancers and when I looked back the car was fully restored, word to the wise, keep watching if you want to see how they made that happen.
Taylor Ellis’s role as Danny Zuko was well played out, he had Danny’s personality spot on, and—with his T-bird gang—some of their over-emphasised swaggers were extremely comedic.
The ‘Pink Ladies’ were a pretty exceptional bunch. Leader of the pink pack—Rizzo—played by Renee Evans was an absolute knock-out. With a great vocal performance and enough swagger and sass to fill the whole stage, Renee really nailed her part. There were more than a few goose bumps during her stunning solo performance of the song ‘There are Worse Things I Could Do’. Laura Signal’s role as Jan was believable and adorable; her impressive acting abilities were well showcased in this role, and Frenchy was portrayed perfectly by Frankie Curd, with her timid attitude totally figured out.
School principal ‘Miss Lynch’ played by Sophia Parker looked like she’d stepped straight out of the movie, but some cheeky subtleties Sophia masterfully added were well enjoyed by the audience. Rocky Rowland’s portrayal of pesky Patty was irritatingly good; she brought excellent dancing skills to the show.
The band led by Roger Buchanan was exceptional, providing a full and enjoyable feel to the stage, and nailing every song they performed. Singers Johnny Casino—Elijah Graham—and Teen Angel—Douglas Ransom— tuned into a bygone era and absolutely nailed memorable Grease songs like ‘Beauty School Dropout’ and ‘Born to Hand Jive’.
There were some opening night technical errors which are likely to be ironed out quickly, though one memorable unplanned line “I forgot about my ****** gum” heard due to a mic/timing error had the crowd in stitches.
The big numbers we all came for were there, and some high-energy dancing had some audience members singing and dancing in their seats. It’s hard to go far wrong with a well-loved show like Grease which is laden with nostalgia yet still able to captivate young audiences.
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