Greece Does Grease is innocently audacious
By Rebecca Franklin (Melody Mangler). Directed by Diva Gould. A Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society production. At the Waterfront Theatre on Friday, October 8. Continues until October 16
You’ve got to love a show that makes you feel like you’re having friendly, boisterous sex.
In Greece Does Grease, writer Rebecca Franklin, whose burlesque name is Melody Mangler, takes songs from the two Grease movies, gives them new lyrics, and mashes them together with the Greek myth of Persephone, who married Hades, ruler of the underworld. So “We’ll Be Together” turns into “We’re Gods Together”, and a pair of middle-of-the-road musical movies turn into a sex-positive romp about a young woman learning to get her groove on.
The great thing about Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, which also brought us the charming Shine last season, is that the company truly honours the “new” in “new burlesque.” The women on-stage here are subjects, rather than objects; they’re celebrating their erotic selves on their own terms for their own pleasure—and inviting us along for the ride. All shapes and body sizes are welcome at this party; female beauty isn’t defined by a narrowly commercial male gaze. And women are definitely not subjugated by men. Male performers also cavort here, but it’s an equal-opportunity playground.
The material is innocently audacious. When Hades suggests that Persephone should eat a pomegranate, the fruit of the underworld, to ensure at least part-time tenancy there, he says, “You have to eat my seed,” and she replies, “I’m pretty sure I’ve done that already.”
The performers are more used to burlesque than theatre, so some of the acting is green. Miss Fitt (in their bios, the performers all use burlesque names) plays Persephone, and she needs to pick up her cues. So does Bernie Bombay (Zeus). The night I attended, a couple of the singers had pitch problems, and the microphones were set at ear-splitting levels during Act 1.
Still, all of the performers are having an infectiously good time. Bombay and David Tasselsoff (Hades) rock out in “Greek Lightning”. And Cass King (Demeter) gets the best costume moment: her headdress of scarlet flowers bursts into dozens of petals when she whips it off during, “Hopelessly Devoted to Genocide”. The five-piece band is tight.
Thanks partly to the energetic choreography of April O’Peel, the big group numbers have the most sass. In my favourite, “Vile Underworld”, the demonic chorines wear tiny aubergine tutus, glittering black collars, and spider-shaped pasties. So far, I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen in which the chorus members wear spider-shaped pasties.