Hopelessly Devoted to Grease.

Hopelessly Devoted to Grease.

Slicker and sexier than ever is the promise. Nicole Smith speaks to the new Danny, Sandy and Miss Lynch about of the latest revival of the musical, which is honouring the memory of Olivia Newton-John. 

Seventy years beyond the 50s, we remain hopelessly devoted to Grease. With the enduring appeal of its era, the iconic musical can evoke a strong nostalgia across generations. A cultural phenomenon, Grease has had countless revivals, adaptations, and references in popular media, ensuring its status as a nostalgic touchstone for multiple generations. Fresh from opening in Melbourne on new year's eve and currently on stage at Sydney's Capitol Theatre, a new cast is picking up the leather jackets and donning the poodle skirts to head to school at Rydell High. 

The infectious music, vibrant choreography, and timeless themes of love and belonging featured in Grease resonate with audiences, transporting them back to their youthful experiences and the cultural landscape of the 1950s. 

The portrayal of teen romance, friendship, and rebellion taps into universal experiences, drawing viewers into a world filled with youthful exuberance and innocence. Audiences are being promised a version of the classic that is slicker, sexier, and more electrifying than ever.

Image: Joseph Spanti and Annelise Hall in Grease (c) Hugh Stewart

Leading the all-Australian cast in the iconic roles made famous by our own Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta are Joseph Spanti (Danny) and Annelise Hall (Sandy).

Melbourne local Spanti, had a special connection to Her Majesty’s Theatre where the season opened last year.

“I saw my very first musical in 2014, and it gave me the bug, so it is very exciting to come back to the theatre where I fell in love with musicals,” Spanti says. “I can't believe I’m doing a show in the place that gave me the reason to do theatre. Getting to open in my hometown is special” 

Spanti researched the era while preparing to take on Danny.

“It’s fun because it's such an iconic role. John Travolta put such an interesting spin on the character, and when people think about the role, they have him in mind,” he adds “I’m feeling really privileged to step into his shoes. But It’s a double-edged sword, giving people what they expect, yet at the same time, to play with it and make it your own. If it's not authentically yourself, then they see through that.” 

Spanti is trying on the iconic T Bird look.

“As soon as I put on the leather jacket, I felt an element of Danny Zuko already there. The essence started to come through naturally. My leather jacket era has begun,” he laughs. “I’ve been learning a lot about what a Greaser is. They were these guys returning from war who didn't know how to deal with their experiences and formed gangs. I'm playing with different ideas of how he would have been introduced to the Greaser life.” 

Reflecting on the masculine stereotypes of men in the 50s and 60s, Spanti says, “some themes aren’t very 2023, but we need to bring it to life and look how far we have come. Men don’t need to be angry to be masculine in that way. They can be themselves. It is sad in a way that these guys in those days had a sheltered idea of masculinity, and a lot of people suffered because of that.

“Danny learns a lot about himself through Sandy. He learns I don’t have to put on this persona. I can be whoever I want to be, and showing vulnerability and love for this woman is totally fine.”

The chemistry between Danny and Sandy is a central aspect of the story, and Spanti has nothing but praise for his leading lady.

“Annalise is truly a lovely person and has that essence of Olivia. Australian audiences are going to fall in love with her.”

Both Spanti and Annalise Hall grew up loving the music and movies with classic hits like ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘You're the One That I Want’, that have become synonymous with the era and have the power to trigger feelings of nostalgia for many instantly. 

Hall has always loved the musical and had a deep connection to the role.

“Olivia Newton-John is someone that I looked up to growing up. She's someone that has inspired me,” Hall says. “To play such an iconic role is special and a little bit nerve-wracking but very exciting”. 

Having played the role of Sandy whilst studying at the Queensland Conservatorium, she looks forward to bringing Sandy to the stage now that she is “a little bit older, a little bit wiser.”

Hall also looks forward to honouring Australia’s sweetheart Olivia Newton-John in this, the first staged version of the role that made her famous, since she lost her battle with cancer in 2022.  She recently visited The Olivia Newton-John Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne and is delighted that the centre is an official charity partner of the production. The company raised $40,000 for the charity.

Hall is drawn to Olivia’s life work because the centre is “focussed on wellness to improve quality” of life alongside research. One of her proudest moments was leading the charity’s primary fundraiser walk for wellness in October this year as its ambassador. She hopes to spread awareness and raise funds, saying “We are doing this for Olivia, and a lot of the money raised will go to the wellness centre."

“Australia just loves Grease and loves Sandy. I’m going to bring a little bit of myself to it as well. Sandy’s journey starts reflective of old America in that she’s got these certain morals, certain ideals. At that time, we are seeing all these teenagers who are fighting for their identity, fighting for their freedom. I think Sandy is a reflection of that. She is fighting for her empowerment,” Hall says.

“There are so many opportunities throughout the show where she could turn her back on the Pink Ladies, turn her back on Danny, but she sticks with them, and in the end, she gets what she wants. I love the determination and persistence that you can see in Sandy.

“The way that I see Sandy and the production of Grease does resonate well with a 2023/24 audience. Women can be inspired by women supporting women and the way that Sandy stands up for herself. I’m (looking forward) to bringing that to the show.

“Kate Baily worked on the costume design of the movie and described the final outfit as being ahead of its time, and that’s the way I see Sandy’s journey - ahead of its time. In 2023, we are so much more respectful of women having control of their bodies and making their own decisions over their bodies. I’m focused on showing some of the grit and the female empowerment throughout the production.”

Heading up Rydell High is beloved veteran Patti Newton as Miss Lynch. Newton has unique connections with Grease, being friends with Olivia Newton-John.

“Olivia adored Bert as Bert did her,” she says. “This was her moment and something that put her on the map.” 

Bert Newton, who sadly passed away in 2021, played Vince Fontaine during the last tour of Grease in one of his final stage roles.

“Bert loved doing Grease,” she reminisces. “I know how he feels. The young people in the ensemble are so caring and loving. When I got the call from John Frost to play Miss Lynch, a yellow butterfly landed on my windscreen, and I thought, yes, that’s a sign. We always say any yellow butterflies mean he is here. 

“I think Bert is looking after me upstairs. Hopefully, I will be an inspiration to people who have lost their loved ones who can’t get out of bed. You don’t want to go with them; you want to live for them. I have six grandchildren, and life is for living.” 

Newton says, looking forward to the new iteration of the beloved musical, “You can’t not love it with all that beautiful music. It’s a show that appeals to everyone.”

The cast quickly points out this is an Australian Grease, with all cast and creatives on home soil. The fashion of Grease contributes to its timeless quality in the hands of Aussie designers.

“There will be all the amazing costumes people have never seen,” says Hall. 

“When do you ever get to do a show like that? Designers, directors, the whole production team are Australian, and everything is Australian-made,” adds Spanti.

 The 1950s setting and iconic costumes have become emblematic of a bygone era. The film's depiction of high school life, complete with the T-Birds and Pink Ladies, has become ingrained in popular culture, serving as a reference point for an idealised, nostalgic representation of teenage experiences. 

One of the most apparent impacts of Grease is its enduring influence on fashion. The 1950s-inspired looks showcased in the film, from leather jackets and poodle skirts to slicked-back hair and pedal pushers, have had a lasting imprint on fashion trends, with retro and vintage styles often drawing inspiration from the film. 

Beyond fashion and music, Grease has also influenced how we talk and communicate, with iconic lines and phrases from the film becoming part of everyday language. Whether it's exclaiming, "Tell me about it, stud", or referencing "Summer lovin'," the film's dialogue has permeated popular culture, instantly recognisable to audiences across generations. 

So, as the class of 2024 moves into Rydell High, this New Year's Eve Grease becomes further solidified in popular culture, becoming part of an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide.

Production photos: Jeff Busby

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

Opened 31 December 2023. (Season Finished)


Capitol Theatre, Sydney

From 24 March 2024



Crown Theatre Perth

From June 2024



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