Meet two of the stars of the upcoming Grease 2: Live in Concert.
Today’s multiplex movie generation probably cannot imagine a film lasting more than four weeks or so in the cinema. 1978 megahit Grease played for months upon months and everyone who was anyone had the double LP (or double cassette).
It was no wonder that producers wanted to cash in with a sequel, which arrived in 1982 in the form of Grease 2. Didi Conn briefly reprised her role as Beauty School Dropout Frenchie, as did some of the ‘50s stars playing teachers, but the other students had moved on. In 1961, two years after Danny and Sandy graduated, a new batch of T-Birds and Pink Ladies populated Rydell High.
Grease 2, to put it mildly, never reached the dizzy heights of popularity enjoyed by Grease but it has a certain cult status, helped along by its addictive score. Meet a new friend who you discover has seen Grease 2 and the two of you will soon be singing "Score Tonight" or "Reproduction" at the top of your lungs.
With all those fabulous songs and all the years that have rolled by, it is incredible that no one has put Grease 2 on the stage before. No one, that is until Robbie Carmellotti put his mind to it. With musical director Drew Downing transcribing and arranging the score, Joel Anderson as choreographer and Katherine Armstrong as co-producer, Carmelotti set about directing his dream show.
Performed as a tribute to Grease 2, the show includes all the original music, plus a stack of classic ‘60s songs. The result is a non-stop cavalcade of hits that will have audiences smiling and tapping their toes in pure enjoyment.
I caught up with a couple of the leads at rehearsal to find out more about my castmates.
Blake Testro is playing Johnny, leader of the T-Birds, a role played by Adrian Zmed in the movie. Zmed has some follow up success with the Tom Hanks hit Bachelor Party and tv’s TJ Hooker before falling into obscurity.
Blake has been doing shows since he was 18 (just out of high school). Most recently he performed in Reefer Madness with Fab Nobs as Jack & Jesus and in Tomorrow Morning with Just Us Productions as John. He has had about 8 years of singing lessons, including 4 of classically training, as well as completing various acting workshops and a little dance training.
I asked Blake about his prior knowledge of the movie: “I was always a fan of Grease, I thought it was a great film and I was really surprised to see how badly it was written in its musical form. Grease 2 I’m pretty sure I saw when I was quite young but I re-watched it sometime last year and I wasn’t blown away [wry smile]. I felt the energy need to sell those numbers was absent and I believe it will translate a lot better on stage. So in summary Grease – watch the movie, Grease 2 – see the stage show!”
Blake went on fill me in on the rehearsal process. “Being that I’m not a dancer, some of my early songs (the acting songs) have been most enjoyable as they give me a chance to emote and do some character development. From a T-birds point of view ‘Prowlin” is the number to look out for; we’ve really stripped it right back, the crowd will love it. I also think ‘Reproduction’ and
‘Who’s That Guy?’ could be stand outs.” To fully appreciate Blake’s "stripped back" comment you will have to see the show!
Blake will follow up Grease 2 with a revival of Tomorrow Morning. “It’ll be on at Chapel off Chapel from March 10th – 13th! Come check it out!”
Nicole Kapiniaris is filling the Pink Lady jacket of Paulette, originally played by Lorna Luft. Haven’t heard of Lorna Luft? Maybe you have heard of her mother and sister – Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli! Lorna still performs, touring with a concert entitled Songs My Mother Taught Me.
Nicole filled me in on her theatre background: “I have completed a BA in Music Theatre Performance and worked professionally for the last 6 years as a singer/dancer/actor in a variety of settings. Most recently I have appeared as Frida with BABBA and worked with Anthony Crowley on a fabulous children’s theatre production for the City of Stonnington for the past 2 year consecutively – My Favourite Things. I last appeared in the 2009 Midsumma Festival as Candi in Zanna Don’t.”
Nicole reminisced on her memories of the movie Grease 2. “I saw it many years ago on television, as it was often played back to back with Grease (which was one of my ultimate childhood movie experiences….played back over and over and OVER again!!) I was intrigued seeing Michelle Pfeiffer in a musical!? I always loved watching the opening ‘Back to School,’ ‘Score Tonight’ and Reproduction.’ ”
Nicole shared her thoughts on how rehearsals and the show have been progressing: “I have appreciated the team spirit from all involved in this production, the enormous amounts of passion & energy for the project, and have enjoyed working with people I have not worked with before. All of the ensemble numbers should knock [the audience’s] socks off with the sheer energy and talent this cast exudes! Also, ‘I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)’ is a great big-band number that I get to perform and am totally pumped for!” Nicole agrees with Blake that "Reproduction" will be a big crowd favourite as well!
Nicole has a few more projects already lined up as 2011 continues. “This year sees me commencing working with one Melbourne’s premier corporate bands Louie & the Party Boys as well the Robbie Williams Experience. I also look forward to working with Carey Grammar Junior School on their school musical project in term 3!”