One of the keys to the success of this musical is undoubtedly the music, it is truly a soundtrack that has captivated generation after generation. So for a production of Grease it is imperative to have someone capable in command of recreating the iconic sounds of the 1950's while still adding a personal flare and stamping a production with unique touches and individuality.
At the helm of music in this production is Lucas D. Lynch who is a current student of Classical Piano at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and as well as his studies is repetiteur for Queensland Ballet and Queensland Dance of Excellence. He has worked with RMT since 2012 in which he was assistant-conductor for The Pirates of Penzance before going on to work on productions such as The Phantom of the Opera,
Jesus Christ Superstar, The Wizard of Oz, Pirates of Penzance (ROAR) and Cinderella.
I myself have had the pleasure of working with Lucas since Pirates in 2012 and have worked with him closely over the past, he is a real mastermind and will continue to work at the highest level in musical direction when he graduates later this year. I'm so thrilled to have him as a part of the team for this production and as my partner in this and so many other ventures, wait until you hear the rocking band he has assembled. I've worked with many orchestra's over the years and this ensemble of musicians gave me chills when I first heard them a few weeks ago. So without further delay, I give you my sit down with the wonderful Lucas D. Lynch...
Lucas, you come from a classical background studying at the Queensland Conservatorium, how is it musically directing a rock musical?
Coming from years and years of studying classical music and now musically directing a rock show, has proved a challenge. I've had to work hard with the score and challenge myself to work freer with the music. However, rock is not totally foreign to me as I was principle keyboard from the recent RMT production of JC Superstar and having a family background in modern music did help too (thanks dad!).
You've worked on a few musicals now, what makes this cast different to work with ?
This cast is an absolute wonder! Right at the beginning I knew most of them from various situations, but with a bunch of new faces and this group, it truly is a Musical Director's dream cast. They are very responsive and have great input to their characters. I still continue to commend them in their efforts as I try to push for something beyond their expectations as singers. They know I'm hard to please as I constantly expect the best... But they continue to do produce wonderful things to which I'm always so impressed!
What are your favourite parts of this show to work on?
My favourite parts of the show is working with the entire ensemble on the big numbers. Nothing is more impressive then a big body of sound, especially by this great cast. However, if I'm to play favourites for a moment, the greatest feeling comes from working with individual leads on the sentimental (or power hit) solos and work as a team to find that sound. I speak to the readers when I say, just you wait for Shonagh Hale's heart ripping performance of "There are worse things..." and Genevieve Tree's "Hopelessly Devoted".
Why should audiences come and see this incarnation of Grease?
The audience needs to see the sheer level of talent from this amazing YOUTH group. Come see our brilliant band, our great set and costumes. Come watch all the pieces of the puzzle come together for a performance that you won't forget. All this great work has been masterminded by my work partner-in-crime Thomas Armstrong-Robley. Come see our vision!
You can catch Lucas with his rock orchestra along with Adam Goodall as Danny, Genevieve Tree as Sandy and the rest of the gang from Rydell High this June 12th & 13th only. Tickets on sale NOW, for more information click below.
One of the greatest parts of this experience for me has been the chance to rekindle with old cast-mates and young performers who have now blossomed into mature & seasoned performers. This weeks blog shines the spotlight on two integral members of the Grease team who are well known to Redcliffe Musical Theatre audiences and who I have worked with on in shows since 2011. Four years on and we are working together closely developing their roles and preparing them to deliver show-stopping performances as Kenickie & Rizzo respectively, I speak of course of Alex Kuchmenko and Shonagh Hale.
Audiences will recognise Alex from his recent stint as Bobby C (U/S) in 'Saturday Night Fever' or perhaps some may recognise him from his days in drag as the ugly step-mother in Cinderella the Pantomime. Alex now steps into the role of Kenickie and really breaths new life into the character, it is a wonderful thing to see a young man whom I've watched for numerous years mature both as an artist and as a person. Now to work with him on Grease after playing his role myself is a real treat for me as a director, I have absolute belief that Alex will surpass my turn as Kenickie and really take his part to places yet untouched and I am thrilled to continue to watch his growth in this show and whatever he decides to do going forward.
Shonagh Hale is also no stranger RMT audiences, she has had successful turns in Joseph, Grease & Saturday Night Fever. I have known Shonagh personally for close to ten years now and have had the pleasure of working with her on stage since late 2010. At only 14, Shonagh was originally cast as an U/S for The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat but soon enough found herself stepping up into the full-time cast and delivering a performance way beyond her age. What makes working with Shonagh in this production such a pleasure is the fact that we have actually worked together on this show before, Shonagh understudied Rizzo back in 2012 and delivered two knockout performances in the role to great reviews. Getting to share the stage with her back then has really cemented the trust between us and as you'll see from her performance in this adaptation, Shonagh has developed immensely in the past 2 years.
This past weekend I sat with Alex and Shonagh to talk about the show and what it takes to bring this dysfunctional couple to life.
So Alex, you play Kenickie tell us a bit about him..
Alex: Kenickie is second in command to Danny in the T-Birds, although at times he tries to take full leadership of the group, especially when Danny isn’t present. He is a natural leader, and almost unconsciously bosses the group around at times. Kenickie avoids any moments at which there is a possibility that he could expose his soft side; he has built an alpha male image around himself, which he is proud to expose to the world. He isn’t a hero; in fact he is far from it. Instead, he houses traits such as being obnoxious, rude, loud, and rough. Despite displaying these traits, he is the one keeping Danny’s head on straight. The only thing that could break Kenickie’s suave is fear, which is seldom an issue for him. But when it does, there’s no Mr. Tough Guy anymore, which is when the audience gets a glimpse of who Kenickie is inside.
Shonagh, you understudied Rizzo in the 2012 production, what have you been up to since then?
Shonagh: The last few years have been both hectic and a breather - I had a three year break from musical theatre. That being said I was given the awesome opportunity to be a featured vocalist in the 2013 production of Creative Generation. Other than that, I've just focused on working and graduating and making the best of myself in other areas.
So 2 years on and the role now belongs to you, how are you finding it back in the pink jacket, what's easier or harder this time?
Shonagh: I am absolutely, crazily adoring being in the pink jacket again and more so to be playing Rizzo. She is fiery, brutal and so gorgeously complex. I would say playing her has become easier as I feel she's a rougher, angrier extension of my own self. I think I've grown a lot as a person the last few years so I find her much easier to understand and I'm not so shy or naive anymore. I would say the most difficult aspect of playing her is that I've put a lot of expectations on myself to delve into her complexities and play her justice. Riz is not sunshine and rainbows - she's crass, rude and has very few redeeming qualities yet still manages to retain a certain charm and you hate to love her. THAT is what I want the audience to feel.
You are the youngest of the four leads, what have you found challenging about this?
Alex: Being the youngest of the leads, I’ve found it’s difficult thinking in the way they do; they’ve lived other aspects of life which I’m soon to endeavour into – this doesn’t stop me from becoming Kenickie, the rough, tough, Alpha Male he is, in fact it has been beneficial to work around an older lead cast – they have given me insight as to what it is like being an 18 year old, the hardship of finance, being on the brink of adolescence... I’ve been around older friends for a year now, all who have taught me various things, some more than others, and the little things I’ve learnt are now being put into practice in this role.
How are you finding this new cast to work with?
Shonagh: This cast is one in a million. I am absolutely in love with each and every one of the individuals in this show. I really don't want to use the word kids - these are amazing, mature young individuals and I feel blessed to be a part of such an encouraging and energetic group of people. I walk in to and leave each and every rehearsal with a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart because of these incredible youths.
What is your favourite part of the show to perform?
Alex: When Kenickie reveals that yes, in fact, he does have a soft side. Finding the balance of still being Number One and showing the vulnerability behind him is a great challenge, and it gives a very unique colour to the character… for me it’s the cherry on top; All the other T-Birds have already shown their soft sides, and finally Kenickie breaks, really adding a sense of sincerity and honesty to him.
What are you liking about this production?
Alex: It's working with a young team of thespians; the young, witty and creative minds have brought this production to a prestigious level of performance. No aspect has been missed, Acting, singing and dancing are being fine tuned, polished and refined to perfection. Aside from the rehearsal aspect, the production team and cast have bonded so closely, which makes us so much more comfortable in the space. No one feels awkward performing; everyone supports each other, and that is a key element which I feel many productions often lack.
One more question for you both, what do you like about your Kenickie/Rizzo?
Shonagh: I think my kenickie is sensational. I believe Alex is on the way to becoming a fantastic seasoned performer for someone so young and he's developing a vast repertoire. His dedication to Kenickie and portraying him in the most honest way is wondrous and as I've known him for several years now, it has been incredible to watch him grow and I am very proud to see how he has developed into such a passionate, talented performer. Alex can go wherever he wants with his stagecraft - it is going to be amazing to see what more he has to offer to the stage not just as kenickie but in whatever roles he takes on in the future.
Alex: At times I forget Shonagh is Shonagh. Her dedication to Rizzo is just unbelievable, or should I say fully believable. When the blocking begins, she instantly transforms into rizzo, the way she walks, talks and interacts with the others. She goes from her kind, caring self to a sassy, risky, bend-the-rules chick from the 50’s. Her talent is incredible, she never shy’s down from any challenge, whatever is thrown at her, she takes it and makes it her own. She brings a unique energy to the stage, which energises everyone to give an even stronger performance. I’ve seen various performances of Grease where each Rizzo gives a great performance, although they have lacked something. That something is honesty. Shonagh brings such honesty and sincerity, which hits the audience right in the feels. Rizzo, I’m blown away every time I see you perform. See you on stage, Kid.
You can catch Alex & Shonagh along with Adam Goodall as Danny, Genevieve Tree as Sandy and the rest of the gang from Rydell High this June 12th & 13th only. Tickets on sale NOW, for more information click below.
by Thomas Armstrong-Robley
" Hello readers and welcome to 'The Directors Corner' where over the 6 weeks myself, the cast and production team of Grease shall be giving you a glimpse into the behind the scenes of RMT Youth's inaugural production, so come with us as we give you a sneak peak of what it takes to bring Rydell High back to Redcliffe. "
We start our story roughly 2 years and 8 months ago when I found myself picking up the script and score to one of the worlds most popular musicals for the first time, there I was behind the steering wheel of Greased Lightning and surrounded by a wealth of talented performers who would soon become treasured friends. The experience of performing in Grease back in December of 2012 and watching the infectious effect on audiences as we rocked through hit after hit was one that it would not soon be forgotten by the performers or by those who saw it. I cannot explain to you the reason the world clings to this piece of musical theatre so dearly or why it continues to sell out around the world but perhaps it doesn't need explaining, some things are simply destined to be a part of lives and need to be passed down from generation to generation.
So when talks began with myself, Madeleine Johns (Executive Producer) and Lucas D. Lynch (Musical Director) to create the RMT Youth Initiative, we mulled over options for a premiere production which would launch the concept with high energy and a spotlight on young performers. Soon enough it became clear to us that one show stood above the rest as engaging, exciting and relevant for the young adults who would go on to perform it, was of course Grease. So we put the word out and received an overwhelming response, held a highly energetic information night and sat through 3 days of auditions to find our cast and my what a cast we found. If I had to describe this cast using 1 word it would be 'balance', to me this cast combines a perfect combination of seasoned performers with new discoveries, treads the line of fun and hard work and ultimately has created a wonderfully positive working environment. The cast features local performers who I'm sure will be recognised by many but it is also wonderful to welcome so many new performers into the RMT family, performers who travel from as far as Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast to partake in this production. Two performers who know all about the travel involved are the fierce Nathan Hollingworth and our one-liner machine Kaitlyn Maxwell who play Johnny Casino and Jan respectively, I sat down with these two newcomers to the Redcliffe stage to ask them all about themselves and the show.
So, tell us a bit about yourself...
Nathan: My name is Nathaniel Hollingworth! Nathan is fine There's not much about me other than the fact that I love to perform. I can be a bit of a bookworm, LOVE Greek Theatre, absolute night owl (hate morning rehearsals) and piña coladas
Kaitlyn: Hola! I'm kaitlyn I'm a wannabe comedian and actress. I like cars and dogs. In fact all of my animals are named after cars or car parts. I'm a cook and barista at the Lone Pine Koala Santurary and my best friend is a koala named Barry who lives next door to my locker.
What is your performing experience?
Nathan: I've been performing from a very young age! Mostly singing and acting, it wasn't until recently I've found a passion for dance and I've really embraced it and love everything about it! I'm very much a character actor having played roles like Sebastian (Little Mermaid), Lumiere (Beauty + Beast) and the Cowardly Lion (The Wiz).
Kaitlyn: My first performance was a play called Cinderbella, which was a "fractured fairytale" production which combined plots and story lines from Cinderella and beauty and the beast. My first musical was Grease (2012) and I played Marty. Last year I played Tess in Camp rock, and I played Mrs Clause in a Christmas pantomime called "Spaced Out Santa". I was delighted to find out the actor who played Santa was 66 years old, I was stoked... I've also been in a couple of school based plays such as "wolf lullaby" "Aprils fools" and "snagged". My first paid role was the lead in a short film called "the jester".
How have you found it joining RMT for Grease?
Nathan: Having joined Redcliffe Musical Theatre I was rather nervous, not knowing how anyone in your cast can be daunting, especially when you have some pretty intense choreography with them or harmonies to hold with people you've never sung with before. However the cast of Grease are so inviting and embraced the newbies like we had always been apart of the family, we were just hiding in the cupboard.
Kaitlyn: I've loved it, I've never been in a production where everyone is a triple threat. I thought id hate coming to rehearsals at a stage, because of the drive... But I've got nothing but amazing things to say about this production and the team involved!
What is your favourite part of the show to watch or perform?
Kaitlyn: I'm absolutely loving Rizzo's version of Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee. Us pink ladies have all developed such a wonderful bond both on stage and off and since we have that natural chemistry everything looks and feels so much better. I love the Grease Lighting scene and choreography, I think it looks and sounds wonderful. But I cannot wait for the finishing touches of the Prom scene! The Hand jive is going to be great! I can't wait for this show to be polished and clean, but also want it to take it's time because I don't want it to come to an end!
Nathan: It's hard to pick because I'm loving so much of it! I think what I love most is not the iconic songs that everyone knows from Grease but the ones people don't really walk around singing. Songs like "Raining on Prom Night", "Shakin at the High School Hop" and "Those Magic Changes". Because they aren't iconic we have so much free reign to make it our own and the singers have really taken that on and have blown me away.
You can catch Nathan & Kaitlyn along with Adam Goodall as Danny, Genevieve Tree as Sandy and the rest of the gang from Rydell High this June 12th & 13th only. Tickets on sale NOW, for more information click below.