Greasy mess

Vancouver theatre, Studio 58, Grease, Peter Jorgensen, Lauren Jackson, Chirag Naik

Lauren Jackson’s Sandy cozies up to Markian Tarasiuk’s Danny in Studio 58’s Grease.

Peter Jorgensen’s direction of Grease at Studio 58 is bit of a mess, but some student performances shine through.

Studio 58 doesn’t have enough singing talent in its ranks to cast a musical right now, so programming Grease was the first mistake. Some of the singing in this production is really off. It’s unkind to put young artists through that—not to mention the paying public.

And Jorgensen has decided to make the sexuality in the musical all humpa humpa all the time. That choice is boring because it’s repetitive and it dissipates tension. How often do we need to see the guys thrusting their hips and mounting inanimate objects? Jorgensen’s choice also reveals his lack of understanding of the period, which was about rebellion, yes, but it was also about being clamped down—especially for girls and women. Sure, this version of Grease is sexier than the cleaned-up movie, but we’re still talking about 1959.

Omanie Elias’s dull grey set doesn’t help, and neither does the director’s slack pacing between songs.

All of this said, some members of the student cast manage to outperform the production. Lauren Jackson, who plays Sandy, sings well and she’s spot-on in her sense of the period. She’s not playing a caricature, as many in this company are, she’s playing a character, and she’s got a credible internal life—a beating heart that’s informed by the values of a culture that’s different from ours.

Chirag Naik, who is quickly establishing himself as a talent to watch, nails “Mooning”—yes, this song is about pressed ham—with his playful no-holds-barred delivery. One of the great pleasures in watching Naik is that he always knows where the focus should be. When it’s on him, he fills the moment; when it’s elsewhere, he supports.

Although he takes his time doing it, Markian Tarasiuk makes emotional sense of Danny. And, although the Jorgensen’s overly sexualized interpretation could have undermined his work, Carlen Escarraga who’s playing Sonny, also brings three dimensions to his character.

Still, productions at Studio 58 are often excellent so, when I go there, I expect more than this show delivers.

If you want to read a more generous response that also gives context to the version of Grease that’s being done here, check out Kathleen Oliver’s review on straight.com. And, if you want to see a vastly better show that Jorgensen directed, check out Out of a Dream. My review of that is also on straight.com.

 

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Comments

  1. Good gravy! This is exactly everything I thought when I saw this production at the beginning of February. It felt like he had decided to do Grease and didn’t care whether or not he had a group of kids who could do it.

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