Monday, October 18, 2010

Greece Does Grease

My review of Greece Does Grease appears in this week's WE.

Cass King (left) and Melody Mangler (right) sing and strip in the burlesque mash-up, Greece Does Grease.
Cass King (left) and Melody Mangler (right) sing and strip in the burlesque mash-up, Greece Does Grease.
Credit: Supplied


The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society has played a huge part in establishing Vancouver’s thriving burlesque scene. With its latest show, Greece Does Grease, company founder and artistic director Melody Mangler conceived of and then achieved the seemingly impossible: a mostly successful marriage of Ancient Greek mythology and the music of stage-to-screen musical Grease and its sad-sack cinematic sequel, Grease 2.

There are no T-Birds but plenty of togas in this burlesque parody. The story mostly focuses on Persephone (Miss Fitt), the doted-on virgin daughter of Demeter (Cass King, of the musical duo the Wet Spots) and Zeus (Bernie Bombay), who falls for bad-boy Hades (Basil).

Of course, liberties are taken with the ancient texts (Persephone was actually kidnapped by Hades back in the day), and the all-too-familiar songs have been loosely rewritten to suit the onstage shenanigans. It’s fun, however, to hear Grease’s campy ’50s-style classics reformatted and juxtaposed against such overtly sexual content. Bombay, who gets huge laughs with his portrayal of Zeus as an unrepentant pervert, has great energy in his ode to narcissism, “Greek Lightning.” Mangler, as bad-girl Hecate, cranks up the heat to seduce Demeter in the sexy girl-on-girl number, “There Are Bad Things You Can Do.” But it’s King, as a heartbroken mother at the end of her rope, who steals the show with her phenomenal solo, “Hopelessly Devoted to Genocide.” Infused with pain, longing, and heart, it’s the highlight of the evening.

The production, though original and creative, isn’t without its flaws. The humour careens unevenly from ridiculous to erotic, with the provocative occasionally derailing into the juvenile. The story is often stuck in exposition where a song would better bring the audience up to speed. And some technical snafus still need attention, particularly the microphones, which amplify the sound to almost skull-splitting levels whenever there’s a confrontation or a chorus of nymphs (pretty much every five to 10 minutes). But Greece Does Grease is never short on enthusiasm, triple-threat skills, or skin — a trifecta few other stage productions dare attempt, much less attain.

Greece Does Grease runs to Oct. 16 at Waterfront Theatre (1412 Cartwright, Granville Island), 8:15pm. $23-$30 from

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