Where the film musical famously pushed Danny and Sandy to the foreground arguably at the expense of many of the supporting characters, the South Downe Musical Society’s production of “Grease” delivers a much more ensemble approach to this cheeriest and cheesiest of musicals. Thankfully, alongside Danny (Perry Ralls) and Sandy (Hannah Ali), the cast packs the main characters with an abundance of energy and personality, broadening the story to encompass the senior year hijinks and entanglements of the rest of the Pink Ladies and T-Birds, especially the adorkable sweetness of Emily Rennick’s Jan and Matt Sackman’s Roger.
Director Helen Stoddart makes sure the show makes fantastic use of the Ferneham Hall space, bringing the audience right into the action and, if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for the flat surface area (as I did), you’ll have Danny, Sandy and even Eugene rocking and a-rolling all around you. The costumes are great and while I’d like to have seen a little more period authenticity when it came to hair styles, the music, choreography and vocals are absolutely on point. From Rizzo’s (Kimberley Harvey) powerful and heartfelt rendition of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ to the fizzy ensemble fun of ‘We Go Together’ nearly all your favourite songs are here (‘Sandy’ being the only notable exception). Perhaps the crowning achievement (or should that be halo?) is Steve Reading’s interpretation of Teen Angel, bringing us a knowingly fabulous performance that’s half Greg Wise from ‘Walking On Sunshine’ and half Liberace.
Despite a few corners being cut here and there in terms of story, this is one of the best amateur productions I’ve seen and one of my favourite ever productions of “Grease” making up for what it lacks in lavish production values with joy and moxie. Vibrant, breezy and wackily immersive, it’s one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in a theatre.
The production runs at Fareham’s Ferneham Hall until Saturday 9th July and there are still some tickets available.