, Research Paper
The piece of theatre that I will be reviewing is a piece that I was in; I shall be reviewing the musical Grease . Girls from Bedford High School, St. Andrews, and St. Thomas Moore and boys from Bedford Modern school performed in this; all participants were in years 10 upper sixth. It took place in the Howard Hall at Bedford Modern school from the 24th 27th November. Directing this piece was Helen Rees-Bidder, alongside Alex Steeden as the assistant director.
Incase you are unaware of the story of Grease, I ll briefly explain it. It is a 50 s rock and roll musical, which follows the lives of a group of rebels who are friends, and in high school. The main interest is Danny and Sandy, and how they fall for each other. This production was very enjoyable and quite amusing in places. I believe that people of my age (15) and older would be able to relate to many of the problems that the characters faced, as they are of similar ages. This piece also has a simple, yet interesting story line with many lively dances and songs. Although younger members of the audience would have found enjoyment in these, a large amount of the comedy was quite mature, and this would not have been suitable for smaller children.
As I mentioned earlier, the production took place in the Howard Hall of BMS. The seating was raked with a possible audience total of approximately 200. The main stage was flat with a raised platform at the back. The hall s ceiling is rather high; this gives the theatre a dramatic feel. The hall is fairly modern in appearance, with no visible windows.
The set mostly remained the same the whole way through. There was a 50 s style backdrop, decorated with a photo collage, of a 50 s theme, in different colours, for instance, pink, green and yellow. This created an eye-catching effect, and was appropriate for this production, it meant that the audience could tell what period this production was set in, but it left the actual venues to their imagination.
Due to the fact that there were no curtains in the hall it was often essential for a blackout between the scenes. For the majority of the production, the whole stage was fully lit, but different lighting was used at certain points. Spotlights were used when there were solo songs, for example, during the song Beauty School Drop-out , they were also used in important speeches, for instance at the start of the piece, when Miss Lynch and Eugene address the school. Near to the beginning of the play, both the boys and the girls are eating their lunch, but in different areas of the school, and so to move back and forth between groups only half of the stage was lit up at any one time, (the half which the audience were supposed to be focusing on at that point). During the song Mooning , which is sung by Roger and Jan, they were lit by a spotlight, while the rest of the cast on stage were in semi darkness. A gobo was used to create tiny shapes that were lit by a white light and rotated around the hall. This whole lighting procedure created the effect of moonlight, which was fitting for that song, Mooning . During the scene in which the dance occurred, the stage was slightly dimly lit, with a spotlight on the characters that were speaking. It was in this scene that Sandy sung Raining On Prom Night . She was not supposed to be at the prom, but instead, at home, alone, feeling sorry for herself. To show that she was not part of the prom, all of the company who were on stage, turned their backs to the audience, whilst Sandy, in a spotlight, sung her song. The stage was very dimly lit in the scenes before and after Beauty School drop-out, this was to produce an eerie effect, in preparation for the supposed fight, which was yet to come. The stage was also dimly lit during the drive-in movie scene, this was to suggest that it was nighttime.
Before the production began, whilst the audience were arriving, 50 s songs were played, accompanied by the voice of Vince Fontaine, a local radio DJ, his voice appears at other points in the play, especially when the radio is supposedly playing. In the scene where the song Greased Lightening takes place, a sound effect is used to create a police siren and a car horn. When Danny and Sandy are at the drive in movie, a pre-recorded film can be heard, with a werewolf s howl in the background. Microphones were used at certain points of the play, during solo songs, or speeches, for instance at the dance scene. These microphones were mainly radio microphones, but in some cases a hand-held microphone was used if appropriate, for example, when Marty sings Freddy My Love .
Pyrotechnics were used in this performance, mainly during the song Beauty School Drop-out . Frenchy is alone, on the stage, at the end of her speech, in which she speaks about how she longs for a Guardian angel; an enormous bang can be heard throughout the theatre. There is a mini-explosion on the stage, and bubbles float in the air, this all heralds the coming of the Teen Angel. This grand display is comical, as the Teen Angel turns out to be a corpse; this illuminates Frenchy s bad luck in life.
All of the costumes were well suited to the era in which the play was set. The chorus organized most of their own costumes, and the majority of the main parts were given hired costumes. I found that the costumes in the dance scene were most impressive, many 50 s style prom dresses could be seen, along with boys in brightly coloured dinner jackets, and girls in knee length skirts. At other times in the play, girls wore pedal pushers, or a full 50 s skirt, with a tight top, or + length top and a neck scarf. Boys could be seen wearing jeans or trousers, with white T-shirts and leather jackets. Various arrays of brightly coloured garments were worn, this made the production animated and interesting. The costumes were eye catching. All of these factors helped to create a 50 s atmosphere, which enhanced the quality of the production.
The make-up used in this production looked very professional. Normal stage make-up was used by most people (blue/green eyes, blusher, and bright lipstick) but there were some exceptions. The Teen Angel, for example, needed the most make-up, as he aimed to look like a corpse, it took a lengthy period of time to produce this look, but the result was creditable.
The acting in this performance was of a very high standard, (many members of the cast are taking either GCSE or A-level drama). All of the characters were portrayed in a realistic manner. The leads were very able and convincing, with a strong supporting cast, and a lively and dedicated chorus. Will Knox, who played Danny, was very amusing, and suited his part well and Sandy, played by Annika Abrahams was also very good. Rizzo, (Leanean Callender) was a very strong character. Vince Fontaine, (Jeremy Stimson) had a clear, strong voice, which was essential for his part. And of course, Miss Lynch, played by Tom Perry, was truly comical and adapted well to a role of the opposite sex, he played his part very convincingly.
The musical director was John Mower, accompanied by a small band. They played well, to the right speed, tempo and volume.
The quality of the singing was creditable. All of the soloists had good voices, and the chorus provided a strong combined voice. Individuals that should be particularly commended are Danny, Sandy, Rizzo and the Teen Angel.
The stage was fairly large, and only certain areas of it were used most of the time, but on occasions, the whole stage was filled. As the stage was so large, if scenes using only a few characters were spread across the whole stage, it would take away from the closeness, and friendship that is supposed to be shown. The raised platform at the back was ideal for scenes with few people.
There were several dances in this production, these were Summer Nights , We Go Together and Born to Hand Jive . All of these dances were accompanied with a song. The choreographer was Stuart Wilcox. Although the movements were not particularly challenging, they were effective, and were fitting to the time period.
Gillian Arger arranged the props (properties). There were many personal props, which the actors themselves were responsible for, but also, props which the stage crew, etc., were in charge of. Some of these props could be counted as set, for example, a picnic bench, and the car, Greased Lightening.
The main transitions between scenes were blackouts, while the stage crew changed the set. Before the pajama party scene, the girls had a very quick change, and so this was not possible. To give them more time, and also for humor, the Burger Palace Boys brought on the set, which was a bed, a dressing table, and other items you might find in a girl s bedroom. The boys fooled around with these items, this was not only amusing, but it gave the girls a longer period of time in which to change.
A particularly dramatic piece of the play, which remains in my mind, was the very start, the opening to a production is always dramatic, and this was no exception. On the flat part of the stage, sat the chorus, and to one side, standing at a lectern, was Miss Lynch, with Patty Simcox and Eugene sitting by her. Upon the raised platform, stood the Greasers (Danny, Kenickie, Rizzo, etc.) They are in sillouhetted. The Rydel High school song is sung by the chorus, and lead by Miss Lynch, and various speeches are made, all of which tell us that this is a class reunion. It is during Eugene s speech in which the Greasers are missed, and on this line, the stage clears. A guitar run is heard, and the raised platform is lit up, we see the Greasers for the first time. They are standing (in their couples ) in positions of defiance, laziness, boredom and amusement. They all jump from the platform, walk to the very front of the stage, and sing their own version of the school song, defiantly, to the audience. This made a lasting impression on my mind as it was so dramatic, and it was a very different opening to what I had expected. It made a bold contrast between the good, and the bad, it set the scene.
There were many themes to think about which were brought up throughout this play. Love was the main theme, the love between Danny and Sandy, but other themes were relevant too. High school, popularity, pregnancy, car mechanics, cheerleading, intelligence, fitting in and rivalry are all themes that were of importance.
And so, in conclusion, this production of Grease had a strong cast, colourful costumes, an interesting stage layout and impressive singing.
This was a good performance by all.