Opera House, Wellington

16/07/2014 - 26/07/2014

Production Details


Sandy loves Danny, Danny loves Sandy. But, Danny is a T.Bird and Sandy isn’t a Pink Lady….which isn’t cool. And being cool is everything.

From the era of drive in movies, sock hops, pyjama parties, beehives, bobby socks, poodle skirts and black leather jackets comes a spectacular new production of one of America’s most popular musicals GREASE.

Grease takes place in and around the fictitious Rydell High School, class of 59, where Danny Zuko, the self-appointed role model believes he is the coolest of the cool.

Every high school worldwide has its Zuko – in the late 50’s TV’s Happy Days, which started soon after Grease exploited the same sort of character in ‘Fonz’ the high school drop-out played by Henry Winkler

Another major component of educational life at the time was Prom night which was often featured in American movies and TV programs. This highly valued event is a ball held at the end of the academic year for the class completing either junior or, more usually senior high school. The term Prom is short for promotion (to the next level of study). The song ‘Raining on Prom Night’ captures the anxiety a lot of girls feel about this all important occasion. There is much status attached to your ‘date’ both for the girls and the boys. 

With well-known and well-loved rock & roll music set against witty dialog that emphasised the naïve innocence of the time, along with its Burger Palace boys and Pink ladies of Rydell High, Grease is certainly a parody of the 50’s but one delivered with such obvious affection that is served to preserve rather than obliterate the past on which it is based.

JULY 2014
Opera House, Wellington
Show Dates and Times
16th Wed – 18th Fri:  7:30pm
19th Sat:  2:00pm & 7:30pm 
20th Sun:  4pm
21st Mon:  (dark) 
22nd Tue – 22nd Fri 25:  7:30pm 
26th Sat:  2:00pm & 7:30pm

Ticket Prices
         Premium:  “A” Reserve | “B” Reserve:Conditions
:  $79.90;          $69.90;                  $59.90 
Group (10+):  n/a; $59.90;                  n/a 
Group Organiser entitled to 1x complimentry ticket for each 9 paid tickets (max x2) 
Concession: n/a;    $59.90;                      $59.90  
Concession = gold card seniors & students with ID

Child (5yo – 14yo):n/a;  $39.90;           $39.90 
No carry-in children or infants permitted

A fun, toe tappin’ night out

Review by Jo Hodgson 18th Jul 2014

There is a buzz of anticipation in the audience as we (my mum and I) take our seats for opening night of this iconic musical.  A whole range of ages ready to reminisce about either living in the 50s, or remembering the movie which came out in 1978 or a new generation to become addicted to the rock ‘n’ roll ride that is Grease. 

Grease, the musical, which first opened in 1971, follows a group of teenagers (greasers) at the fictional Rydell High School in 1959.  (The name ‘greaser’ came from their greased backed hairstyle and a youth culture influenced by singers such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and the look of Marlon Brando and James Dean.) 

The show opens on the graduating students singing, with appropriate monotony, their school song and Miss Lynch (Tania Dreaver-Parker) remembering where they all began. A clever transition from the graduation hall back in time to the school yard and we’re into a world of bobby socks, ponytails, poodle skirts and leather jackets.

Here the Pink Ladies – tough talking Rizzo (Ainslie Allen); ‘sophisticated’ Marty (Hannah Candy); fun-loving and foolish Frenchy (Flora Lloyd); and funny sweet Jan (Pernille Osbourne) meet the wholesome new girl, Sandy (Awhimai Fraser) who tells them of her summer with a special romantic boy called Danny in ‘Summer Nights’ – which surely must be one of the most enduring duets of the modern karaoke bar.

On the other side of the school yard are the T-birds led by cool dude Danny (Waylon Edwards) telling his somewhat less wholesome, less honest story of his summer lovin’ to his side kicks: joker Rodger (Ben Paterson); gullible Doody (William Duignan); wanna-be ladies’ man Sonny (Jonathan Harris) and hot shot Kenickie (Leroi Kippen). 

On encountering each other unexpectedly again at the same school, Danny plays it cool in front of the T birds, making Sandy confused and hurt by his strange behaviour.   

The ensuing story continues with all the trials and tribulations of teenage hood as they grapple with the – still relevant today – issues of acceptance, conflicts in love and friendships, sexual exploration, teenage pregnancy and bullying. Has anything really changed?

Wellington Musical Theatre’s production, directed by the very talented and versatile Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, is fun, fast and full of energy from the very large local cast and smooth band under the expert baton of Michael Nicholas Williams.  

It bursts from the stage, especially in Act 2 with the vibrant costuming and the effectively used sets and lighting (Talya Pilcher) including the ‘Greased Lightning’ car, the glitzy dance hall and the lavish vintage style movie set staircase during the show stealing Teen Angel song ‘Beauty School Drop Out’ sung with charismatic schlmatz by Tom McLeod.  

Leigh Evans’ choreography is tight and energetic and it is obvious how many hours have gone into perfecting these huge company numbers. I love the (underused) STOMP-like percussive hub caps in ‘Greased Lightning’, the rock ’n’ roll styles of the prom and especially the slick uniformed hand clapping routine in ‘We Go Together’ to finish Act 1.

Unlike many other musicals, nearly every song in Grease can stand alone and they are so well known one can almost hear the audience desperate to join in but I am pleasantly surprised by the few that don’t appear in the movie like ‘These Magic Changes’with stylistically sound singing (and guitar playing) by William Duignan and Pernille Osbourne, and Ben Paterson perform the duo ‘Mooning’with excellent comic timing and great vocals.

The talented cast are all locally-based and many are still studying dance or musical theatre through Whitireia Performance Centre. Their dedication and love for the stage is infectious and hats off to them for juggling study/work/family while rehearsing and performing too as this is not paid employment. All the smaller parts are delivered well too.

Awhimai Fraser has a stunning voice. It is beautifully strong and technically focused and she commands the stage in Sandy’s heartfelt ‘Hopelessly devoted to you’.

To mirror this, Waylon Edward’s conveys Danny’s image conflict and his vulnerability in his emotional singing of ‘Sandy’ which makes me warm more to his character.

Other notable highlights of the show are Ainslie Allen’s passionate rendition of Rizzo’s ‘There are worse things I could do’. The Pink Ladies give excellent characterisation of their differing personalities and they have great rapport, especially in the pajama party scene.

Their counterparts, the T birds are equally engaging – with Leroi Kippen giving a very solid performance as Kenickie and Ben Paterson and William Duignan could set up as a 50s party duo with their fabulous ‘Rock n Roll Party Queen’; they do however struggle a little more with consistent accent delivery with some ‘Kiwi-isms’ coming through from time to time. (That could be an interesting remake setting Grease in NZ 1950s with the bodgies and the widgies, as the same teenage angst was being played out here then too.)

Aside from some frustrating and distracting sound issues, and the sad (for me) feeling that the underlying theme of this show seems to be one of conformity, this is a fun, toe tappin’ night out at the theatre. As the proud mum of the youngest cast member said, “It gets ya singing and moving in ya seat.”  

So the consensus is – Grease is STILL the word.  


John Smythe July 22nd, 2014

This production does everything it should with real flair.  I am particularly impressed with the way the actors own their characters - and suspect this has everything to do with Lyndee-Jane Rutherford's directing.

Make a comment

Grease is still the word

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 18th Jul 2014

That Grease is still the word, even after 40 years, is testament to the durability of this all-time favourite musical.

And while some may be somewhat cynical about yet another Grease – this is Wellington Musical Theatre’s third production – fortunately there is enough originality and innovation in this production to make it very watchable. [More]


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council