“A playful rendition of a feel-good musical classic… is an ode to the comedic genius of its witty cast and crew…

Reviving a playful rendition of a feel-good musical classic, Hild Bede Theatre’s adaptation of Grease, directed by Jacob Vellucci and Hannah Sheppard assisted by Midun Odunaiya, is an ode to the comedic genius of its witty cast and crew. Full of vitality, toe-tapping numbers and no shortage of well-placed comic moments, the production delivers an electrifying, chill-multiplying night.

In a whirlwind high school romance, Summer love-birds Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski (played by Jo Price and Freya Rogers) are put to the test when defying the norms of their respective cliques – with both lead actors giving strong vocal performances. The T-Birds (played by Harry Allderidge, Dylan Morales and Jude Battersby) play excellently into the slapstick humour of their characters; with strong vocals and killer hip-thrusting dance moves – whilst the Pink Ladies (played by Isabelle Evans, Lara Mulgrew, Harri Papworth and Helena Ariari) give strong performances that highlight the nuances of their characters.

The difficulty in filling and adapting the space Hild Bede’s undeniably huge stage is masterfully overcome by the entire creative team. By cleverly creating a dual space in front of the curtain, the production team (Production Manager Theo Nellis) creates an immersive experience that makes the absolute most of the space given; whilst the tone-matching lighting (George Murray) aids the audience in feeling as involved as possible. Though the microphones are often spotty and interrupted at times, the cast overcome this with strong projection and an enthusiastic ‘the show must go on’ attitude that speaks to their professionalism.

Whilst line delivery can fall occasionally flat, the choreography of the big group numbers (Francesca Horgan, assisted by Charlie Holliday) can only be described as delightfully camp and groovy, with the adaptive blocking around the set and artful use of space doing their best with the given stage. Greased Lightnin’ and Born to Hand Jive stand out for their cohesive choreography that maintains a flare of the classic production whilst reworking in some more modern twists. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the somewhat long and awkward scene and set transitions, which could have benefitted from some choreographed cover-ups to fill the gap. In spite of these, however, the show maintains a mostly fluent and cohesive narrative, aided by the excellency of its live band led by musical director Dan Hicks, assisted by Issey Dodd.

The greatest strength of the musical lies in the acting ability of its cast, where we witness Sonny (Jude Battersby) and Mrs Lynch (Lucy Atkinson) bring the house down with their comedic timing and expressions – something that really adds to the 1950s feel of the musical. The use of comedic silence and facial expression are a common strength of every cast member and really adds a modern enjoyability to a more dated script.

All in all, Hild Bede Theatre’s production of Grease adds a breath of fresh air to a classic musical, doing its legacy justice while keeping it alive for a modern audience.

By Lauren Kate

Grease will continue to show at 19:30 on Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th of March in Caedmon Hall, Hild Bede Theatre