Harvest Rain Theatre Company's larger-than-life production of 'Grease - The Arena Experience' was a feast for the eyes.
Staged at Brisbane Convention Centre, the show featured a cast of over 800 performers including Drew Weston as Danny, Meghan O'Shea as Sandy and the special addition of 'X-Factor' winner and Australia's Eurovision runner-up Dami Im as Teen Angel.
The show was full of all the things that stood out in the original film, but there were changes here and there, which were at points jarring and a bit unexpected. After the first few times, though, it was easier to expect that the live show wasn't going to be a frame-by-frame of the iconic '70s film.
The principal cast carried 'Grease' steadily on their shoulders from start to finish with their strong vocals and acting abilities. One stand-out was Stacey De Waard as Frenchy, who nailed her adorable high-pitched intonation and warm personality. Ruby Clark performed brilliantly as Rizzo, and her rendition of 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do' was breathtaking, just as it should be.
The most noticeable flaw in 'Grease - The Arena Experience' was the age gap between the principal cast members (the students, played by young adults) and the ensemble.
With the themes 'Grease' handles such as career path decisions, sex, unplanned pregnancy and relationships, it was a little distracting knowing the ensemble included a whole bunch of kids as young as 10. In saying this however, 800 people on stage at once all doing 'Born To Hand Jive' made up for this slight bump in the road. It was visually astonishing to witness.
The stand-out of 'Grease' was undoubtedly Dami Im. Coming on stage only to sing 'Beauty School Dropout' as Frenchy's Teen Angel, her stage presence and vocals were unmatched, and simply incredible. For a few minutes, we were transported to a whole different place, a whole different show. I could have listened to her perform that song for hours.
She was wheeled onto the stage on a chariot wearing huge white wings, being pulled along by her subjects as she nailed the song note for note. The composition was noticeably given a Dami twist, allowing her to showcase her undeniable vocal abilities and blow the audience away.
There was even a hint of comedy in the song, as Frenchy tried to interrupt with a question and Teen Angel sang 'NO, NO, NO, go back! Go back to high school!' in protest.
What a woman. What a performer. Stunning.
The remainder of 'Grease' was just as fun and upbeat as what had been witnessed up to that point. It ended with the inevitable post-Sandy-transformation song 'You're The One That I Want', before the cast broke into 'We Go Together' and a reprise of 'Born To Hand Jive'.
'Grease - The Arena Experience' celebrated one of the best-loved movie-musicals of all time in a display of vocal mastery, theatrical wonderment and an unforgettable cameo from an incomparable Australian pop princess.
'Grease - The Arena Experience' plays Newcastle Entertainment Centre on 14 and 15 July, with dates for Adelaide and Sydney to be announced soon.