Grease is best known as the classic teen film of 1978 and has transformed to a touring arena spectacular, a truly terrible sequel, and now a beloved staple of the community and High School theatre circuit- in its original stage musical form.
The show covers issues from teen pregnancy and gang violence to love, friendship and coming-of-age. For such a meaty thematic framework, Grease is best loved for its musical numbers. These have haunted many dance floors in the form of the beloved ‘Grease Megamix’.
If there is a way to stage a rendition of Grease with the joy and energy it deserves – Fab Nobs and director Anne Dewar are certain to deliver a show that lives up to its status in pop culture.
Fab Nobs have made an interesting move in triple casting the role of the Teen Angel. It is certainly notable that the Melbourne community theatre scene now has stars whose names have a certain pulling power. Shaun Kingma, Jonathan Guthrie-Jones and Karl McNamara will share the part of Teen Angel, perhaps an unprecedented decision.
Anne Dewar and members of the cast have obligingly taken the time out of a busy pre-production schedule to answer a few questions about ‘Greasing up’. "Grease for me conjures up thoughts of the exciting 50’s era," said Anne. "Greased back Hair, Poodle Skirts, Chewing Gum, Chevys, Leather Jackets and of course John Travolta. In many ways a simpler way of life compared to nowadays! The concept of this particular production of Grease is quite different as it is being performed in a cabaret style setting. I’ve had to embrace it and decided early on to bring the audience into the action by turning the whole Fab Nob Factory into The Burger Palace complete with check table cloths, chequered floor, giant juke box and lots of 50’s retro decor. The end result is very effective and I am interested to see how the audience will react to it. I think they will definitely enjoy stepping back into the 50’s from the moment they set foot in the foyer, as well as the general feel good vibe the show gives off. You can’t help smiling at some of the songs and I am sure everybody will have a favourite character."
The Cast, of course, go together like a woop bam boom. They are as primed as the engine on the "Greased Lightning" and are ready to Hand Jive. Said Melissa Hedstrom, who will be playing the lovely blonde belle Sandy: "Fab Nobs have now given Grease a different spin for me. Now it means lots of fun memories and great people. The fact that there is no chorus will make this very different to other productions." Nicholas Chilton, playing the hero of the piece Danny, agreed with Melissa. "I think this production is a lot more intimate than most, but hopefully at the same time it will be a little tougher too. I love a couple of the subtleties that some people have been giving their characters, I really enjoy watching those people. I love the opportunity to work with such a small group of people, it makes getting familiar with new people easier, and also with a short rehearsal period, that’s a good thing!"
So what does the word ‘Grease’ mean to the young guns taking the lead in this production?! Said Josh Gavin, playing Kennicke: "It’s the hair, the walk, the attitude." Amy Cumming, a Bayswater sweetheart playing the tough nut Rizzo said "It’s the word!!! I mean have you not heard that Grease IS the word?? Especially in Bayswater I believe…" And, well, John Pendergast, playing the ever green Eugene has put in the hard yards for this article: "Well, apparently, ‘Grease’ just isn’t any old word. I’ve been told that ‘Grease’ is in fact THE word. Supposedly it has both groove and meaning, and it’s the time, the place, and the motion. Oh, and, of course, it’s the way we are feeling. I’m still not sure what any of that means and I have no idea what it has to do with the word ‘Grease’ but I’ll hopefully have completed all necessary research on this by opening night and so I will fully understand where Frankie Valli was coming from."
If you want enjoyment, look no further than Amy! "You know that feeling you get when you hear the bass line to Summer Nights start??? *sigh* I love this musical, and this entire process has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. I couldn’t be happier, especially when I get to put on a ‘Pink Ladies’ jacket!!! Powered by an amazing production team, company and cast, this production is GREASE with grunt! The essence of teenage life in the 50’s."
John seems to be enjoying something alright, but perhaps we’re not talking about the same thing anymore… "The production team has really gone all out with the way this is being staged to immerse the audience in the 50’s feel. The Fab Factory has been transformed through several thousand litres of paint into a 50’s diner. From an audience perspective, it’s going to be a step back in time from the moment they enter the front doors. Oh and don’t forget the magical flying gnomes. Still not sure how they fit into Grease… Or maybe I’ve been hallucinating them; performing amongst all those paint fumes……..I think playing such a different role to real life has been a great experience. In real life, being a Maths, Science & IT teacher, I often get cast in the suave, charming, romantic-lead type roles, so having the challenge of stepping away from my usual self and playing a nerd has been, while obviously quite difficult, loads of fun. And, I must admit, every time I see the cast all gathered together in their costumes I get a little fit of giggles. They are hideously amazing and ooze 50’s charm!!!"
So what do we know?! That this production of Grease will be different to most. It’ll have grunt and a small cast giving it their all. The final word fro Anne: "Researching the era has been interesting and I have really enjoyed turning what was basically a blank canvas (the factory) into something special. I have had so many highlights. Working with my cast of both well known performers and young upcoming performers; and my extremely talented production team creating sensational costumes, spectacular set electrics, creative choreography and awesome music with a rockin’ band has been a lovely journey for me and one I’ll always remember. The cast are all wonderful with so much energy and they will just knock your socks off. Fab Nobs are a fabulous (no pun intended) bunch of people and I have really enjoyed working with them and really appreciate their never ending support, respect and trust in me to make my vision a reality."