Authors: Alice Soleng, Sharmaarke Mohamed

We were lucky to be given tickets to its opening night at Kilden in Kristiansand. The musical starring Atle Pettersen (Danny) and Charlotte Brænna (Sandy), is based on the 1978 classic film “Grease”, which was nominated for several Golden Globes. While Grease is not a film we loved before attending the musical, we were still excited about how it would hold up to modern standards, and if it could rival the original body of work.

The play’s first scene shows us Danny and Sandy having a relationship during the summer holidays. They stroll along the beach and share a romantic moment. Thinking that Sandy will go back to Australia after the holidays, Danny explains the relationship in rather explicit terms to his friend group, the T-Birds, avoiding any claim of actual feelings. Sandy, originally from Australia, was supposed to return home after the holidays but changed her mind, and ended up at the same high school as Danny Zuko. She makes friends with the Pink Ladies and tells them about her romantic summer fling. Both Danny and Sandy are surprised to see each other at school, and Sandy is shocked when Danny acts completely differently than he did during the summer. The musical follows both friend groups throughout the school year, as they embark on relationships, drama, love, and song.

The first thing that strikes the audience is the set and costumes. Kilden’s stage was set up with simple props, an open area for the most important scenes, and two sets of stairs up to a wrap-around balcony for the ensemble. In the background, visuals are shown on a screen to match the scenes at the front of the stage. The characters are dressed in typical 50s clothing—the women in colourful long skirts, and the men in jeans and leather jackets. While the women undergo several costume changes in the first act, the men’s outfits remain the same until the start of the show’s second half, when the dance happens. The costume department did a wonderful job at matching the period while keeping an exciting flare. Our first critique of the show comes from the actual set. Kilden is a rather small stage, and we feel that a bigger stage could probably have done the film more justice. The set with the stairs and simple props works, but some of the visuals in the background seem awkward and oversimplified compared to what is happening on stage. This is of course, a small fluke because the acting and performances of the actors outshine the set in general.

The atmosphere of Grease’s opening night was nothing short of euphoric. The crowd was up on their feet for the entire performance and did not fall short after the intermission too. They laughed at many of the gags that the crew nailed perfectly and it made for an enjoyable experience. The main applause was reserved for the spectacular musical scores or hilarious moments and in addition, the emotional scenes were met with silence and introspection, furthering the emotional tone the play was trying to achieve.

Arguably the best feature of the entire production is the writing and dialogue. One of the most difficult challenges any media adoption faces is capturing the vibe.  A progression throughout the story was carefully threaded and its execution felt real. Their deep connection was written with various emotions as the two leads figured out what they wanted from their friendship groups, and the evolution of their love as well. Another important detail that the writers cleverly used was the humour. There are times that humour in plays can fill an audience member with cringe or second-hand embarrassment but not in this one. The jokes landed perfectly with a balance of giggles and guffaws reverberating around the concert hall with iconic lines such as ‘Yes, I’m a big boy’ after Danny’s friend asks a girl out on a date. This is one of many examples of how effective dialogue and writing help to create an authentic 1950s high school experience through fully developed characters.

The musical’s direction was noteworthy for a plethora of reasons. Firstly, the pacing did not feel rushed or dragged as the escalated moments merged with the quiet, sombre scenes creating a thrilling experience for the audience which helps with maintaining interest throughout the play. The use of staging and blocking with the moveable set pieces and the impeccable choreography complement each other very well and highlight the director’s capability for technical brilliance. Some of the standout performances from the play came from the lesser-known characters, such as Tom Sterri as Vince F., and the personal best performance came from Thomas Stokke as Kenicki. His taller frame gave him the aura of being Danny’s right-hand man and he played into it very well. The delivery of the lines mixed with charismatic energy leads to a fantastic performance.

Moreover, we would like to highlight the work of the choreographer, as the choreography is what made most of the musical performances noteworthy. While most of the cast are excellent singers, the combination of extravagant dancing and precise singing is what made Grease so memorable. The performance of “Born to Handjive” was incredible, where several of the cast members as well as the ensemble got to be in the spotlight. Whatever the choreographer was paid for this musical, they still deserve a raise.

Overall, we found the opening night of Grease highly entertaining and a great display of how stylish costumes, charming acting, and glorious choreography can come together and create a great performance. If we have to deduct something it would be that in some scenes the set did not seem big or extravagant enough to house such a big musical like Grease. We would also have liked to see a younger cast being allowed to perform. While the casting of Atle Pettersen and Charlotte Brænna makes sense given their excellence as performers, they are both quite some years older than their characters. The same goes for the rest of the cast as well, perhaps apart from some of the ensemble. We would recommend going to see Grease, as it will be performed until the 27th of April.

 

 

 

 

 


Header image belongs to Kilden. https://kilden.com/forestilling/grease/

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