With the world premiere season of Grease 2: Live in Concert less than a week away rehearsals are reaching fever pitch.
You’ve heard the expression ‘all singing, all dancing’ before but this time it’s really true as there actually are no dialogue scenes. Song after fabulous song receives a high-energy treatment from the talented cast of 15.
Having already caught up with castmates Nicole and Blake, I moved on to fellow lead performers Mel and Chris.
Hard working, always in demand Melanie Ott plays the fiery Stephanie, leader of the Pink Ladies. Those who haven’t seen Grease 2 the movie may be surprised to learn that this role launched the career of Michelle Pfeiffer. Why did Pfeiffer never sing in a movie again? It’s a mystery that may never be solved.
On stage since the age of 2 when she began dance training in Ballet, Tap and Jazz, Ott’s affiliation with music theatre started at the age of 14 as a dancer in Fame with Panorama Theatre Company. “In the last few years I have been blessed with the parts I have had the opportunity to play, roles such as April in Hot Shoe Shuffle (CLOC Music Theatre), Mimi in Rent and Sally in Reefer Madness (Fab Nobs) and most recently Cassie in A Chorus Line (Panorama).”
I asked Ott about her knowledge of Grease 2 before this concert staging. “I am a sucker for sequels, you really just have to leave your previous opinions at the door and you will enjoy the movie, it’s over the top, the music is catchy and it’s a brand new set of characters.
I remember my best friend Tara (who also happens to be in the show) sitting me down, forcing this young Michelle Pfeiffer down my throat whilst she re-enacted every number. I had no idea what I was in for and I loved it, cheesy as it is. If you do take it for what it is, you will love it, and everyone loves a bit of over the top characters and boppy tunes at some stage…. Don’t they?”
Ott continued on the comparison of the movie and the upcoming stage show. “People are going to have certain expectations of my portrayal of Stephanie due to the fact that it was originated by Michelle Pfeiffer. There are some qualities of Stephanie from the original which are important to keep in and are some of my favourite parts of the character, however as it is Grease 2: Live in Concert all characters are amplified up to a certain extent. Like the rest of the cast, I have added my own spin and take on the leader of the pink ladies and I really hope the audience enjoys the brand new set of Pink Ladies and T-Birds. Plus it’s probably the only time in my life I will be cool enough to pull off wearing sunglasses inside.“
I asked Ott how she has enjoyed the rehearsal process. “The entire rehearsal period has been wonderful yet jam packed, there isn’t a rehearsal we don’t leave exhausted. We haven’t had very long at all and we’re all learning something new about the show every rehearsal because it’s a new piece. I am so looking forward to the performance stage of Grease 2: Live in Concert because it’s thrilling to have no idea what the audience will think as they really only have the movie to compare it to, if they are going to compare it. I will miss this rehearsal period a lot but am very much looking forward to the next stage. It is going to blow the roof off the stage when we add the finishing touches.”
Finally, I asked Ott what she has planned next. “There are a few projects I am very interested in this year with different companies I have worked with previously however I am really going to be focusing on what I have always wanted which is hopefully getting a professional music theatre career off the ground, and I will never know if I don’t try so, this is the year. I am very excited for 2011, it is going to be a huge year and what better way to kick it off!”
Given that Grease 2 was a sequel but did not have any of the characters from Grease, the writers took just about the most unoriginal route ever for a sequel. They just swapped the sexes and re-told the same story. Instead of meek newcomer Sandy changing to impress cool T-Bird Danny, this time it’s meek newcomer Michael changing to impress cool Pink Lady Stephanie.
Following gorgeous Maxwell Caulfield in to the role of Michael is gorgeous Chris Ostrenski. Native Queenslander Ostrenski is new to Melbourne and will soon make his mark with his sensational dancing, not to mention singing and acting, skills.
I asked Ostrenski to tell me a bit about his music theatre background and training. “Well the most recent show I have been in is actually Grease for the Townsville Choral Society where I played Eugene and that was around 2007. I have also done Cats in 2006 where I played Rum Tum Tugger for NQOMT, and I played Tulsa in Gypsy for the Townsville Choral Society, and Joe B Muldin in The Buddy Holly Story in 2006 for NQOMT. I have been involved in amateur theatre for 10 years from 2000. In my very first show I was one of the children in The King and I. In 2008 I did my Certificate II in music theatre at WAAPA, after which I moved to Melbourne.”
Ostrenski was new to the cult of Grease 2 before this show. “I absolutely had no idea there was a Grease sequel, until Robbie said he was directing it, from there I asked if I could audition and the rest is history. “
I asked Ostrenski how he thinks the audience will find his performance. “Well I hope the audience enjoys my Michael, because the character I have created is a bit different to the Michael in the movie. Unfortunately since it being taken from a movie and this is the first time it’s been on stage I’ve had to make a few adjustments for the live audience. So I hope the die hard fans don’t get too disappointed.”
Ostrenski also shared his thoughts about rehearsals. “I have enjoyed rehearsals a lot. I love the creative atmosphere. To work on a show where there are another 14 people striving to get the best out of themselves is amazing. It’s fun energetic and so amazing.”
Ostrenski has no other shows lined up for the year at this stage but that will surely change once he blows away Melbourne audiences with Grease 2: Live in Concert.
Grease 2: Live in Concert plays at Gasworks Theatre 10 – 19 February.