Islay High School's Production of Grease by Carl Reavey

The last post of this year already and I've saved the space for a review by Ileach Editor Carl Reavey of the Islay High School production of the musical Grease from which I've posted a video earlier. I haven't seen the musical myself but I like the original movie and I was impressed from what I've seen in the video's.

Carl Reavey: The 1978 movie ‘Grease’ is a good Hollywood musical that occasionally shows signs of breaking away from the squeaky clean traditions of the genre and skirts around some of the issues of teenage life in small-town America. The plot is actually reasonable enough as boy-meets girl goes, but it ‘suffers’ from the fact that the ‘boy’ in the movie was John Travolta, perhaps the biggest film star on the planet at the time, and the ‘girl’ was Olivia Newton John, a pop star of interplanetary proportions. It gels as a spectacle, but it never really works on any other level.

In the movie, John and Olivia are supported by a bunch of pals who sing and dance really well, but they don’t really hack it as teenagers because they all look about 25 - because they ARE all 25. So it kinda works, because the songs are great and the dancing is cool and it has a budget of squillions of Hollywood dollars, but that is as far as it goes. You watch it, you have great fun, but you cannot really take it seriously. Continue reading....

The outrageously ambitious Islay High School adaptation “Greased” carries far more intellectual weight. Director Emma Cummings injects some grit into the storyline which revolves around the chemistry between two very strong characters, ‘Danny’ who is played by James Williamson, and ‘Sandy’ played by Jessica Fletcher. Williamson plays the insecure macho teenage prat absolutely brilliantly and Ms Fletcher is jaw-droppingly fabulous as the dippy girl who knows nothing and then suddenly transforms herself into an outrageously sexual fantasy figure.

They are supported by an awesome group of teenagers who are playing, well, teenagers. They do all the things that teenagers do; they smoke, drink, snog, swear, attempt to get pregnant, are objectionable to one another, form gangs and cliques and constantly threaten situations that might just spill over into violence. Oh, and they have a laugh along the way. They dress in vaguely embarrassing fashions and they love music and dancing. They strut about, swagger, sneer, and are deeply insecure about just about everything. It did not always make easy viewing, but it was a stupendous, utterly convincing performance by a group of young men and women who have taken on a whole raft of frankly tricky subjects head on, and delivered a completely convincing masterwork. I wonder if they realise it?

The director, Emma Cummings, deserves huge credit. This was not your standard school production. The subject matter, and some of the language, is not exactly mainstream Christmas fayre. It would have been very easy to take the easy route - to tone down some of the squirmier scenes, cut out the fags etc. and thereby threaten the honesty of the production. The easy way would have been to take the Hollywood route, go for the sugar-coated spectacle and concentrate on the great pop songs. Happily, that did not happen. We got the lot, baseball bats an’ all... There were laughs, but the skilled direction of this extremely talented cast highlighted the underlying, sometimes brutal, realities of teenage life rather than simply milking the audience. The scene where Rizzo thinks she is pregnant was simply extraordinary. I thought I was going to cry.

Productions of this quality require massive backstage input. The costumes, make-up, scenery, projections, hair, music, choreography and lighting were all way more professional than we have any right to expect. Loved the car. This was great theatre. I suggest a number of you give up your day jobs.


Tag: musical greased islay high school