When Barry Conrad rocked up to audition for Harvest Rain’s production of Grease, he knew he stood out.
“They all looked the same, with their collars up and their hair slicked back … and I’m standing there in my curls and looked totally different,” said Conrad.
Barry Conrad admitted he wasn’t sure how the audition would go (he knows he doesn’t look like the usual stereotype of Kenickie) but, as he explains, he took a deep breath, stuck to his game plan and “totally owned it.”
Barry Conrad got the part and he knows it’s breaking new ground, although it shouldn’t be really – cool has no colour.
“It’s definitely a change-up and to be honest, I did not expect it … because the movie, of course, the looks are kind of different.”
The difference being race. Or more specifically – skin colour.
“Even though I love the character of Kenickie so much, I thought there’s no way they’re going to cast me because of the look,” admitted Conrad.
The response to the casting of Barry Conrad into the role of the bad-boy character of Kenickie has been overwhelmingly positive. Conrad says it’s time to challenge the status-quo of casting and question whether ethnicity is really essential to the role.
Grease will be the third musical for Barry Conrad after successful seasons of Violet (Blue Saint Productions) and Hairspray (Harvest Rain), although Conrad admits it’s a career direction he never anticipated.
“I never, ever saw that coming and it’s definitely stretched me and given me a confidence … I’m growing as a performer and that’s helping me in every way: it’s helping with my song writing and as an actor and as a dancer. I’ve worked hard at my craft.”
Like most people, Barry Conrad grew up with the movie version of Grease and used to sing along. He’ll revisit the movie, once more, as part of his preparation to play Kenickie, but will also add his own fresh take to the role.
“I like to see the material once and then add my own flavour. I don’t want to copy or do something just because the original performer did it.”
As he soon as he heard talk of this latest production of Grease, Barry Conrad knew he wanted to play the role of Kenickie.
“I think he’s a badarse character. He’s a cool guy. I love that he has an effortless cool and he doesn’t really care. He’s a bit of a smartarse, he’s a jokester, but he’s a hard worker. Even though he’s got the bravado he’s actually a softie. I think I’m quite similar in some ways,” said Conrad.
Grease will see Barry Conrad reunited with a fellow X-Factor contestant Dami Im, who, in another change in casting norms, will take on the role of the Teen Angel.
“After doing X-Factor together we get to reunite to do this. It’s so exciting and I love the way they took a chance – not only putting a female into that role, but also putting her as well.”
Besides working again with Dami Im, Barry Conrad is looking forward to playing a character with some edge and attitude and of course, he gets to sing, what he feels, is the best song in the show.
“I love that I’m going to be singing ‘Greased Lightning’! It’s that iconic song!” exclaimed Conrad.
The only challenge Conrad will face is making sure he keeps his cool face on, despite the amount of fun he’ll be having.
Grease opens in Brisbane in April ahead of a national tour.
GREASE NATIONAL TOUR DATES
7-9 April 2017 – on sale now
14-16 July 2017 = on sale now
6-7 October 2017 – waitlist
All tickets available from www.greasearenashow.com