Grease at the Grammar

JMcCreadyDrama Productions

What a night! What a performance! It was Electrifyin’!

On Saturday evening I almost jumped off my seat several times watching Limavady Grammar School’s latest production – the hugely popular musical “Grease”

Note, I said ‘almost jumped’ – the presence of the Principal nearby kept me rooted.

It was indeed a thrilling night of entertainment.  From the moment the stage burst into life with the Alma Mater Parody, I knew I was in for quite a ride.

The production team of Claire Gordon {Director), Derek Collins (Musical Director) and Zoe Kyte (Choreographer) managed to produce one of the best shows I have ever seen – and I’ve seen quite a few in London, New York, Dublin and Belfast.

Seriously. There is no absence of talent in the Roe Valley, and the crème de la crème was on show for local audiences over what I understand were three sell-out performances.

We were slowly introduced to each of the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace boys during the lead up to ‘Summer Nights’, and the song itself culminated in a full ensemble of 45 young people in a split-stage setting, singing and dancing as if their lives depended on it!

This was a perfectly cast show – Each of the actors played their part to perfection.  They were actually born to play these roles.

Malachy Kitson as Doody charmed absolutely everyone with his solo of ‘Those Magic Changes’, as he meandered through the crowd and serenaded giggling ladies young and old – much to their delight.

His was a sensitive portrayal of a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and his teenage angst was played with a wonderful tenderness.

His Pink Lady counterpart was the effervescent Frenchy, played by Holly Deane, whose comic timing and schoolgirl enthusiasm was infectious.

She is also an accomplished mover – the type that draws your eye when she dances – and definitely one to watch for the future.

Lucky LGS! I absolutely adored the characters of Roger (The Mooning Champ of Rydell High) played by Andrew Armstrong, and Jan played by Sephy Weavers.

Their duo was a delight, and their choreographed clumsiness and kooky relationship raised many a laugh and heartfelt affection from the audience.

Dara Collins simply shone in the lean, mean, Italian fighting machine role of Sonny LaTierri, but our jaws absolutely hit the floor when he turned up as Frenchy’s Teen Angel, and crooned ‘Beauty School Dropout’ complete with falsetto notes at the end! Talented, handsome and versatile, he is the Real Deal!

Jessica Morgan won all our hearts in the role of serial girlfriend Marty. Such was her vocal talent that her rendition of ‘Freddy My Love’ sounded like a crystal clear recording and the harmonies of her Pink Lady companions were simply divine. I loved this girly sleepover scene for many reasons, but it was definitely Jessica’s performance that topped it off.

The lead roles of the star-crossed lovers Danny and Sandy were played by Jamie Clements and Lily Mullan respectively.  We went on their journey with them, as they navigated the highs and lows of first love: Jamie’s performance as Danny was mature, suitably cool and totally soulful, especially when he sang his solo ‘Alone at the Drive-In Movie’ (all our hearts were breaking for Danny right there); whilst Lily conveyed Sandy’s naivety and innocence perfectly.

This is not an easy role, as the naïve Sandy has flashes of mature insight (with Danny, and again when talking to Rizzo), along with an eventual transformation into an absolute bombshell, complete with self-assurance and a maturity beyond her years.

I loved the sweetness and purity of Lily’s voice, and the confident Sandy at the end.

Conor McIlroy-Sanchez never stopped acting from the minute he appeared onstage, until the curtains closed. His performance as Kenickie was just dynamite!

The choreography of ‘Greased Lightnin’ was exceptional, and Conor managed to belt out the iconic tune in character as well! His acting was one of several highlights for me – addictive, powerful and raucous in all the right measures. Bravo, Conor!

It is a huge demand on a schoolgirl to take on the complex role of Rizzo, not least because of her storyline and the need to avoid descending into melodrama and despair. We needn’t have worried: Hannah Deane’s performance in this role was simply amazing. Her cynicism was on point, as was her treatment of the Burger Palace Boys as she batted them off, one by one. “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was one of the highlights of the evening for me, as Hannah sang it with passion, pain and a vulnerability only seen in truly accomplished performers. I had goosebumps, a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Without a doubt, one of the most moving moments I have witnessed in live theatre.

By now, you must be anticipating comments on ‘the weak links’ in this show. Newsflash! There weren’t any! The minor principals of Miss Lynch (Amy McHugh), Patty Simcox (Suzanne Day), Eugene (Daniel Devenney), the sleazy Vince Fontaine (fab from Kain Breydin), Cha-Cha DiGregorio (Amber Saggu) and the boppin’ Johnny Casino (Shay Campbell) were all brilliant.

 As they carried the narrative in the larger scenes, they were clear, solid and a terrific underscore to the main plot.

The choreography was phenomenal, particularly in the ‘Hand Jive’ contest. No matter where you looked, little vignettes were being played out within pairs and groups, often with hilarious effect.

The mark of good choreography is in the faces of those dancing: they beamed with delight, as they all manoeuvred their way through routines. At times, the cast felt like they were moving as one, floating across our stage with buoyant and totally infectious enthusiasm.

The back stage crews of lighting, sound and costumes were magnificent. A riot of colour, from beginning to end and the stage team worked effortlessly throughout.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this show. Claire Gordon’s direction really highlighted the comedy and gave us plenty to laugh at (and uplift us all), and enabled each of her charges to shine.

Derek Collins’ musical direction brought out the very best quality of the vocals – a phenomenal production from start to finish!

It was an absolute pleasure to be in the audience for this show, and I sincerely hope I’m invited back for the next production!

Bravo, Limavady Grammar School! Bravo!

Barbara McCann, UTV