Grease is the word!

Around mid-December every year The Performing Arts Department at Clevedon School put on a spectacular whole school performance. Recent past delights have been Guys and Dolls, Calamity Jane, The Little Shop of Horrors and Big Business Means Big Laughs – all very different, all exceptional, as indeed was this year’s production of the iconic, smash hit musical GREASE!

This year, for the first time, staff made the decision to have two casts thereby nurturing the talent of younger students and showcasing the talent of those in the older years. The numbers of students, staff, parents and the local community involved was phenomenal; those supporting in the background far exceeded those on the stage. These four groups worked together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding which led to extraordinary levels of commitment, energy, motivation and six high energy, outstanding performances that had the audiences hopelessly devoted to them!

In addition to working simultaneously with two casts, Waterhouse Hall  was given a magnificent make over with the stage at the far end, raked seating, elaborate, authentic set designs, glitter and glamour. Et voilà! The conversion to Rydell High School deep in the American 50s!

Mr Pitts and Miss Vivash with their wonderful band who had to learn twenty eight pieces and play to a professional level were in a purpose built juke box suspended seven feet in the air!

The story unfolds around the romance of leather clad ‘greaser’ and heart throb Danny Zuko and the very wholesome Sandy. During a visit to America, Australian Sandy meets Danny at the beach and falls in love. She is heartbroken when summer ends and she has to return home but fate lends a hand — her parents decide to stay in America and she finds herself attending the same school as Danny; Rydell High, where Danny is in his senior year.

Josh Banks and Des Coghlan-Forbes wowed the audiences with their ultra-cool performances as Danny Zuko.

Rowan Mobsby-Frost and Sam Foley captured the essence of the pure, naïve Sandy to perfection.

Taylor Nicholson, the original Sandy for the senior cast who sadly broke her foot whilst at an audition in London and was unable to perform, managed to put in an appearance and was met with rapturous applause. Taylor was also a huge part of the whole production joining the team of Assistant Directors and Assistant Choreographers.

Bad boy Danny tells his friends, the gum-chewing, hub-cap-stealing, hot-rod-loving, greaser T Birds, about the great summer vacation he had at the beach with Sandy. Sandy in her turn, regales the Pink Ladies, a group of  pink-wearing wise-cracking girls in teased curls, bobby sox, and pedal pushers led by Rizzo, of her own account of her summer romance. The girls realise she was with Danny and arrange a reunion — just as he’s bragging to his friends about his conquest.

The swaggering T birds played by Ewan Elrick and Harry Stokes as Doody who hero worships the rest of the gang,  Harry Lewis and James Hosking as Kenickie, second-in-command of the T-Birds,  Alfie Hocking and Dan Hamblin as the wheeler dealer, lady killer Sonny Latierri and Lewis Bradbury and Dan Filer the ‘anything for a laugh’ Roger, all gave very engaging, energetic group and solo performances. They presented us with some brilliantly timed comic moments and the bond between them was palpable as they bounced off one another from scene to scene.

Fantastic as they all were, the stand out T Bird performance for me was that of Alfie Hocking who played Sonny Latierri in the senior cast. It was the most polished, slick performance – his body language, his mannerisms, all exuded his huge sense of entitlement where the ladies were concerned!

Their female counterparts, the sassy Pink Ladies played by Eleanor Herbert and Jemma Streeter as good natured, dreamer Frenchy, Emma Holmes and Libby Greene as the sophisticated beauty Marty, Eliza Langan and Sophie Pearce as the fearless, acid tongued  leader Rizzo and Liv Doig and Molly Cook as the energetic, bubbly Jan who eats all the time, were equally entertaining, and oozed glamour and cool in every scene.

Eliza Langan who played Betty Rizzo gave an absolutely stunning performance presenting Rizzo as the coolest, toughest of characters but at the same time managing to portray her considerable vulnerability.

Her rendition of Sandra Dee was outstanding, the perfect balance of mockery and nonchalance.

Danny at school is different from Danny at the beach. As rebellious leader of the T Birds, he feels compelled to maintain his hard-earned reputation in front of his friends. He can’t be seen to fall in love with just one girl! Caught between his love and his tough-guy image, he snubs Sandy, who is broken-hearted.

Marty, one of the Pink Ladies, attempts to cheer Sandy up by inviting her to a sleepover at her house with the rest of the gang; Sandy goes along, but Rizzo soon gets fed up of clean living Sandy: she chokes on a cigarette, cannot stand the taste of wine, and is horrified at the idea of having her ears pierced. Frenchy insists and takes her into the bathroom, but Sandy vomits at the first sight of blood.

While the T Birds are working on their car “Greased Lightning” they fantasize about how fabulous it will look when their work is finished.

Eventually Danny decides that he would like to be with Sandy and goes all out to impress her. Sandy in the meantime decides that if she is to catch Danny, she needs to change her look and transforms herself into a sexy, leather-clad, hip swinging greaser. 

The whole cast shone when they were all on stage singing and dancing, none more so than in the hand jive competition scene where their high energy, stylish performances filled the stage.

Cameron Stannard and Archie Ruddick exuded charm in the role of the fast talking, egoistical, minor celebrity dj Victor Fontaine who judges the competition. Their smooth, elevated entrance, coming on air was one I will always remember and the Vince jingle as they came in was such a lovely touch.

Two other characters who featured largely in this scene were Miss Lynch played by Katie Lewis and Amelia Genge. Both gave very convincing performances as the no nonsense, very serious, strict teacher keeping her charges in line. Definitely, teachers in training!

The very short sighted, physically awkward, class valedictorian Eugene Florczyk  was played by Matt Clarke and Paddy Hipkiss. The performances of these two boys bore the hallmark of the whole cast, in that they never, not ever, not once came out of role. I did wonder if Matt suffered from back ache following the show as he was even out in role, prior to the start of the show, entertaining the waiting crowds. Both boys were good but Matt was spectacular.

Johnny Casino/Teen Angel were played by Lewis Bradbury and Des Coghlan Forbes who were absolutely stunning in the role of the all American, rock star ‘greaser’ who fashions himself on Elvis Presley.

I really feel that Lewis deserves a special mention as he has been in all of the shows that I have seen at Clevedon School and his performances never fail to disappoint. He is a very talented young man!

The two other main characters who figured largely in this wonderfully vibrant scene are Cha-Cha (Charlene Digregorio) and Patty Simcox. Cha-Cha played by Rosie Davies and Charlotte Coekin was Kenickie’s blind date, who steals the limelight from Sandy by dancing the hand jive with Danny to win the televised school dance competition. The performance of both girls was confident and stylish and they deserved to win!

And last but not least Patty Simcox played by Alice Bould and Kitty Farrell. Patty is the typical all American cheerleader, attractive and sporty with an enthusiasm that borders on aggression. These two girls did a fabulous job of presenting Patty.

Actually Patty isn’t the last one who deserves a mention, the hand jiving scene would not have been as dazzingly brilliant without the contribution from the chorus. They deserve a special mention, so huge congratulations to Ellie Ackrill, Evie Bigwood-Marsh, Florence Bushby, Lizzie Clapp, Juliette Coe, Lexi Coekin, Alex Coles Carter, Aimée Davies, Maddie Dow, Lily Dyke, Sofia Fox, Katie Grant, Amy Gregory, Joshua Gordon, Louisa Genge, Charlotte Gunn, Jemima Hamblin, Fraser Heysham, Paige Huxham, Chloe Johnson, Jess Lily, Jayden Macdonald, Hayley Miller, Eva Newall, Alice Payne, Rosie Perry, Holly Preston, Ned Redford, Amy Reed, Abbie Rennell, Keira Rennell, Amelie Wilczoch, Amelia Wilkinson and Megan Yull.

Oops! I nearly forgot Greased Lightening! How could I not mention Greased Lightening?! Such a clever construction! Congratulations to the designers.

The attention to detail throughout was also stunning. As well as the Vince jingles at various stages, I loved the Werewolf Movie and the authentic adverts.  

And finally, such a fabulous production could not have taken place without the wonderful musicians and the back stage crew who worked so tirelessly and also deserve a special mention.

The band was conducted by John Pitts; Richard Lennox and Marianne Vivash were on keyboards; Oliver Birch, Jonny Scaramanga and Sam Thomas were on guitar, Charlie Herbert and Ollie McCartney played bass guitar; Annabel Bould, Steve Hacking, Nell Harper, Eleni Kizillis, Matthew Knowles, Josh Parsons, Becky Ross, Mary Sampson played woodwind; Owen Dabson-Marsh, Rosalie Herbert were on brass; Bill Pinnell on percusiion.

The backstage crew were Rebecca Ackrill, Lucha Neal and Oliver Blount who did a great job making sure that everything went smoothly.

I’m sure anyone who went to see Clevedon School’s production of Grease would agree it was outstanding. From the moment the curtain went up, the audience was entranced by the high energy performances, the expertly choreographed dance routines, the beautiful costumes, the fabulous music and the elaborate set design! It was evident throughout that the students had formed a very special bond and had really enjoyed working together. It was a wonderful evening’s entertainment which showcased the huge talent that is being nurtured by the Performing Arts Department and provided us, the audience, with so many laugh out loud moments. Thank-you to all invloved.

Photo Credit: Mike Thie

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