By: Kat Harlton
Grease which recently opened at Toronto’s historic Winter Garden Theatre, is the vision of Broadway choreographer and director Josh Prince. Meant to be a fresh take of the 1950’s Chicago inspired musical, Prince’s revival features a small, young, but well known cast of Janel Parrish (Sandy), Katie Findlay (Rizzo) and Dylan S. Wallach (Danny) with an ensemble supporting cast. Grease tells the story of a group of teenagers attending Rydell High School in the late 1950’s and follows them as they try to navigate love, teen pregnancy, friendship, rebellion and sex.
I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate Parrish’s ‘Sandy‘, having been most familiar with her work in Pretty Little Liars, however this was not the case. I felt Parrish’s portrayal of Sandy showcased the character’s more feisty side. Sandy is often portrayed as a ‘pushover’ and yet there are quite a few moments where she displays confidence and stands up for herself. It’s in these moments that Parrish really shines. Although not quite what I expected, I also really enjoyed Katie Findlay’s version of Rizzo, I felt it was the most grounded out of the performances, and her voice knocked it out of the park for me, I had no idea she could sing like that.
What the audience loved most however, was the soundtrack and choreography. Featuring the original score and songs from the movie (some with fresh arrangements) many of the audience members were dancing and singing along in their seats the entire night. A particular standout for me was the ‘Beauty School Dropout‘ scene, the ‘angels’ showed up in roller-skates and beautiful, glittery costumes, perfect for Frenchy’s fantasy.
In fact, the entire production was high quality, I loved the use of the projections at the beginning and throughout the scene changes. Sharing images, video and audio from, and inspired by 1950’s Chicago, the projections acted as clever transition pieces, helping to set up the next scene’s vibe as well as give the audience something visual.
Having not seen a production of Grease since high school, I was actually a little taken aback at how vulgar, brash and politically incorrect it is. I attribute this to other productions probably having toned it down, but Prince’s version is loud, bright and even confrontational. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts, and was actually a great reminder of both how far and how little society has progressed from the 50’s. With everything that’s going on in the world currently, I think Grease is more relevant now, then ever. Grease is the word!
Grease runs until December 10 2017. For tickets and more info, please visit: https://greaseonstage.com