Niamh Wallace, Lifestyle Editor.
Many of us are familiar with this famed teenage cult-musical, and to see it brought to life on the stage of the Grand Opera House was no less than a dream. Pink lady cocktails in hand, we sat amidst the grandeur of the theatre and watched our favourite characters come to life before us.
The visuals of the play grabbed us from the outset and impressed us throughout. Rydell High School, the diner, the girls bedroom and the garage were reproduced and decorated with the kitsch excess of the fifties that we associate with the musical. The colours were vibrant and the detail superb, and these scenes were populated by characters of the same nature. Every actor in this production deserves recognition for the way they portrayed our favourite characters, paying homage to the original actors in the movie while also each bringing something new and different to the role. We got the cockiness of Danny, the nasal voice of Frenchy, the carefree attitude of Rizzo. It was a joy to behold them strut across the stage in all their teenage pretensions, singing their hearts out to songs we all know so well.
While the stage set up was impressive, the musical numbers really blew the audience away. What stood out the most was the voice of Sandy (Caitlin McClurg): her rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ was tear-jerking, really channelling Olivia Newton John with the emotion in her voice. Another memorable performance was that of Doody (Matthew Campbell), singing ‘Those Magic Changes’ while playing acoustic guitar onstage, dancing and perfecting every single note. No audience member will forget the luscious performance of ‘Teen Angel’ by the famed drag queen Miss Cherrie Ontop (Matthew Cavan) as she sang ‘Beauty School Dropout’ in a glittery-sequinned jumpsuit and a mammoth, permed orange wig. This performance for me captivated the excess and aestheticism of the fifties while bringing a modern twist with the textures of the costume and the set, a truly memorable performance.
The ensemble performances were truly the highlight of the show, with every member of the audience singing along to ‘Born to Hand Jive’ as we nostalgically thought of the iconic high school dance scene so often imitated in American pop-culture movies. The choreography was impressively coordinated despite being extremely complex, with a large number of supporting cast weaving together to produce a spectacular performance.
I left Grease feeling a new appreciation for the era in which it resides. Despite the problematic elements of the story line that were a product of the time period, the musical really captures what it means to be a teenager in any age. We see the highs and lows: problems with teachers, romantic conflicts and arguments with friends are ultimately washed away by the joy they get through being together as friends. The energy and passion that every actor brought to the fore made an incredible impact that blew the audience away, making a lasting impression on opening night that the Ulster Operatic Company should be proud of.