Grease: The Arena Spectacular Live
Invercargill Musical Theatre
Director: Doug Kamo
Musical Director: Michael Buick
Choreographer: Emma Holloway
ILT Stadium Southland, September 13-15
WHEN you walk into the arena set up for Invercargill Musical Theatre’s latest production be prepared for something pretty spectacular.
Time has been turned back at ILT Stadium Southland. The jukebox is playing rock ‘n’ roll tunes, a DJ is in his booth in charge of the turntable and the 270-degree screens and lighting rigs have been made to impress.
Here we are, back at Rydell High, with its greasers, jocks and perky cheerleaders, but at the same time it’s fresh and it’s different from productions which have come before.
Still glowing from a holiday romance, Danny Zuko (Jonathan James) and new girl Sandy Dumbrowski (Kayla Wilcox) fill in their classmates about the fling in the always fun Summer Nights.
This sets up the action for the rest of the show which, underneath its upbeat exterior, explores issues which are always relevant such as fitting in, peer pressure, cliques and making the right choices.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about the show was seeing some hugely exciting up and coming local talent.
We’ve got rising star Sam Cullen (Doody) and his guitar taking the lead in Those Magic Changes; multi-talented Nepia Ruwhiu (Roger) providing comic relief alongside some sweet moments; and Benjamin Williams (Eugene) making his downtrodden character memorable – especially in his short solo.
This was all complemented, of course, by Jason Kerrison’s dreamy cameo as Johnny Casino and the Teen Angel… talk about making an entrance.
But the show’s real point of difference was the production values – the huge stage space worked well on many different levels.
One the one hand, it was a fantastic way to showcase the huge ensemble in numbers such as Born to Hand Jive and You’re The One That I Want.
With colourful lighting, slick dance moves and lots of action it was hard to know who to focus on without missing out.
But then the same space was able to convey the emptiness and loneliness needed as certain characters faced individual turning points – such as Frenchy (Aleisha Kennard) grappling with dropping out of beauty school, or when Sandy decides to start anew.
It was also a perfect way to enhance Rizzo’s vulnerability underneath her tough exterior in Ashleigh Reid’s knockout performance of There Are Worse Things I Could Do.
Whether you love it on stage or love it on film, grab a pink or leather jacket, slick back your hair, and get down to ILT Stadium to relive the theatrical magic of Grease.
There’s four shows only, so don’t miss out and run the risk of being branded a fool.
Tickets are available from TicketDirect.
– Reviewed by Amy Johnstone