Theatre Review | "Grease" @ Nottingham Arts Theatre
"Grease" the Musical
19th September 2023, 7.30pm
Disclaimer: Complimentary tickets were gifted for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own
This week, the girls and I had the pleasure of attending Nottingham Arts Theatre’s opening night performance of Grease, the Musical. We’ve been lucky enough now to see a number of productions by the NAT team and I’ve been impressed at the high standards, so I was very interested to see what they would do with this iconic musical.
"Grease" is a beloved classic, a tale of teenage love and rebellion set against the backdrop of Rydell High School. While the musical mostly follows the script and score of the film, there are a few differences, mainly surrounding the order of the songs. I may touch on those in more detail later, if I feel it’s relevant,
Emily-Hope Wilkins gave a consistently strong performance as the naive and sheltered heroine, Sandy. Emily’s Sandy was slightly feistier than I’m used to, but she still managed to showcase a real range of emotion and her vocals were flawless, as always.
Sandy’s love interest ,Danny Zuko, was played brilliantly by Jonathan Jaycock. I saw Jonathan in smaller roles in Footloose and Oliver, so it was really nice to see him in a more substantial role.
Jonathan did a great job of showing the different sides of Danny’s character, from his suave arrogance to his softer side that attracts Sandy. He also treated us to some strong vocal performances, particularly in his lovely ballad “Sandy” and in the iconic duet “Summer Nights”.
My favourite character in “Grease” is always Rizzo and I was really impressed with Esmee Khadim’s performance in this memorable role. Esmee perfectly captured Rizzo’s sarcasm and sass, with some of the snarkiest one liners in the show. She also gave a beautiful rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, which left nary a dry eye in the house!
I last saw George Young in Footloose, so I was expecting great things when I saw he would be playing Kenickie, Danny’s best friend and fellow T-Bird. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed. George brings so much “watchability” to every role he plays. His Kenickie was full of charisma and swagger and his big number “Greased Lightning” was one of the highlights of the show.
A trio of very talented young ladies appeared as the rest of the Pink Ladies. They had great chemistry when on stage together and each brought their own quality singing voices and acting talent to the mix.
Kate Russell was absolutely fabulous as the delightfully ditzy, Frenchy. She absolutely nailed the characterisation and provided plenty of laughs throughout the show.
Everyone’s favourite flirty Pink Lady, Marty, was played by Jessica Henley-Marshall. She gave a vivacious and lively performance, especially in her main solo number “Freddy My Love”.
Last, but certainly not least. Sophie Benner was absolutely adorable as Jan. Sophie has such lovely comic timing, really nailing every one of Jan’s comedy lines.
The hilarious and hapless T-Birds were rounded up by three fabulous performers:
Sonny Noble really impressed us as Doody, especially in his featured numbers such as Those Magic Changes.
Megan Wilson gave a really confident performance as Roger, bringing so much silliness to the role, especially in the songs Mooning and Rock and Roll Party Queen
The final T-Bird, Sonny, was played brilliantly by Brogan Hayns. All of the T-Birds really understood what was needed from these characters and worked well together as a group.
Yara Tamsyn Johns-Ramos was perfectly annoying as head cheerleader, Patty Simcox. Yara definitely gave one of the stand-out performances of the night, committing 100% to every single moment on stage.
I’ve seen Jamie Adlam a few times now, and he always manages to steal the scene in whichever role he was given. He was particularly perfect as Eugene, the class valedictorian and general nerd. It would have been so easy for this character to fade into the background, but Jamie pitched every line and movement perfectly to really stand out and make this one of the most memorable performances from the show.
Joshua Preston actually gave two cameos as both Jonny Casino and Teen Angel. His rendition of Beauty School Dropout was particularly special, where he just oozed charisma and old-school charm.
Other notable cameos came from Eloise Lowe (Miss Lynch), Daisy Hillery (Blanche along with her trusty xylophone), Phoebe Bateman (Cha Cha) and Daniel Duckworth (Vince Fontaine). We also were treated to a beautiful singing cameo from Olivia Rose Bonham during the song “It’s Raining on Prom Night”
The ensemble was made up of two main groups - the Cheerleaders and the High School Students.
The cheerleaders comprised of Olivia Rose Bonham, Lotty Bricklebank, Harriet Campion, Charlotte Clay, Hermione Cumbers, Erin Hanby, Emily Holder and Hemi Lewis. The rest of the students were played by Ace Merkelt, Ainna-Leisa Mcindoe-Peart, Amelie Burgess, Amy Flatman, Arlo Perrons, Caitlin Young, Clea Sims, Cody Eley, Connie Armstrong, Elise Sykes, Eliza Szejda, Hannah Tuck, Isobel Fox, Josie Samuels, Kayla Burgess, Liam Brown, Malikea Smith, Preston Nash and Stephanie Booth.
Both groups really helped to flesh out the world of Rydell High, filling the halls with their enthusiasm and colourful characters. They made a beautiful, rich sound in the large group numbers (under the musical direction of AJ Hills) and brought so much energy to the exciting and captivating dance numbers (choreographed by Amy Rogers-Gee and Charlotte Barrington)
The show overall was directed by Marie Rogers, and I think she should be very proud of the quality of production her cast and crew have created. There was so much vivacity and animation on that stage and it was so wonderful to see such a talented group of young performers get to take part in something they love and share that joy with an audience.
From having watched a few performances at Nottingham Arts Theatre now, I can clearly see how the talent is growing and developing and I can’t wait to see what they can do next.
Because I have been so sadly lacking in getting this review written (life, ya know!), there are only two performances left at the time of publication. So if you were wanting to catch this production then you need to move fast. All ticket details can be found on the website here.
If you aren’t lucky enough to catch it, why not keep an eye out on the website for future productions. They’ve got The Sound of Music and a youth performance of Les Miserables coming up in 2024 so that’s definitely something to look forward to.