A scene from act 1 of Grease the musical when the Pink Ladies and the boys have just listened to Danny and Sandy's stories. — Photo by White Star
KARACHI: Youthful exuberance, a dash of music and a spell of dance: the perfect recipe for stage magic. Director Nida Butt’s version of the internationally known musical Grease by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs in the Arts Council auditorium on Thursday night had some terrific moments which made the audience gleefully glued to their seats, and a few lows. But it was nice to relive a magical time, reminiscent of the vibrant early post-World War America.
Rydell High School is the scene where Danny (Ahmed Ali) and a bunch of greasers (a subcultural entity) are hanging out. Among the friends is Keneckie, who has a car called Grease Lightning. There’s also a group of girls known as the Pink Ladies featuring Rizzo (Sanam Saeed), Frenchy, Marty and Jan.
At the beginning of the play the Pink Ladies discuss a ‘new chick’ Sandy (Ayesha Omar). It is revealed that Danny and Sandy once met at the beach where the latter was vacationing. Cupid hit the bull’s-eye and they fell in love. But unfortunately they went their own ways once the vacation was over.
Sandy has now also landed at Rydell. She wistfully tells the girls about the brief romantic liaison with Danny. Danny too doesn’t know that Sandy is at Rydell. Both narrate their tales in their distinct ways to their respective cliques — Sandy with a touch of longing; Danny with a fair degree of hubris and false machismo. When the two finally meet on the campus, Danny, to show how cool he is and that he is not weak in the knees, displays a standoffish attitude. This confounds Sandy and she leaves the scene crestfallen.
Guilty Danny revisits the whole episode and thinks of impressing Sandy again by taking part in sports. As the story progresses, the boys find themselves in a situation where they have to be in a race with a rival group of boys, which culminates in the climax of the play.
It would be unfair not to give Nida Butt a pat on her back for putting her heart and soul into the musical. The choreography was top-notch and the music by Hamza Jafri impressive. It was nice to know that the director and the producers of the play, Made for Stage Productions, understood the undercurrents of the script. The story basically hinted at, albeit in a musical vein, how the working class fared in those days. There was pretence, there was the urge to move ahead by hook or by crook, but at the same time there was latent innocence, which was difficult to describe.
It has to be, however, said that Ahmed Ali and Ayesha Omar still have room for improvement. It is understandable that Ali needed to go a bit overboard to make his role believable, but he came across as trying to over-perform. He is a good actor; he only needs to take it easy.
Ayesha Omar is a renowned television star. While the rest of the cast (girls) did a brilliant job with their twangs and drawls, her accent gave away a Pakistani ‘feel’. Perhaps nothing wrong with that.
It is unbelievable how beautifully Sanam Saeed has blossomed into a magnificent actress over the years. She was stupendous as the no-holds-barred Rizzo. The girl can pick accents and mannerism, for sure.
No less amazing was the girl who played the part of Marty. Man, she has one of the sexiest voices in theatre. And can she belt a tune or what! The song Freddy My Love was an auditory treat. If the organisers had provided mediamen with brochures (and were not busy pushing photographers away) that could tell us what the real name of Marty was. You go Marty girl! In fact, the entire cast deserves – Kineckie, Frenchy, Patty, Eugene, Mr Lynch – to be applauded. The collective performance on songs Summer Nights and We Go Together was ‘cool’, to use one of Danny’s words.