Currently in the final days of its Sydney season before opening in Melbourne in the new year, the musical Grease brings with it a plethora of marquee names in scene-stealing cameos. Alongside Rob Mills and Gretel Scarlett as Danny and Sandy, the show features big names Todd McKenney, Anthony Callea, Bert Newton and Val Lehman in parts that see them on stage for little more than a few minutes.
Lehman, best known for her portrayal of Bea Smith in the classic Australian TV series Prisoner, plays Miss Lynch – the stern headmistress of Rydell High School, and a character who wouldn’t be out of place back in Cell Block H.
“Well, I don’t think she’s killed anybody. She might have felt homicidal towards some students…but generally, even though she’s an authoritarian figure, she also has a sense of humour. She knows she’s dealing with difficult adolescents, but she was one herself one day,” Lehman told the Star Observer.
This current production of Grease bills itself as ‘Australia’s number one party musical’, and it’s a canny bit of marketing – audiences arrive primed for a good time.
“It’s an enormous amount of fun – musicals generally are, but this one really gets everyone up and dancing. Everyone’s bouncing along with the music,” said Lehman.
“The crew backstage are singing and dancing as well. You’d be amazed, there’s as much performance going on backstage as there is on stage sometimes. I think it’s a sign of a show working well.”
Lehman is tasked with one of the key moments of the production, leading the audience in a pre-show singalong before the young cast bound on stage to sing the electrifying Barry Gibb-penned title track.
“Bert and I both have that task, getting the audience on our side. I tend to boss them around a bit more! Every audience is different and each one has a personality of its own, but generally, the audience is generally very responsive.”
Lehman, 70, said she’d been a fan of Grease since she saw the first Australian production back in 1972.
“And of course I was so proud when Olivia Newtown-John got the lead role in the movie – an Australian girl up there, leading the way. I’m a fan, for sure.”
After many years away from the theatre, she said she was enjoying being part of such an exuberant, young cast.
It’s such a high energy show with a lot of new faces, and there’s not a slacker there!”
info: Grease plays Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne from January 2. www.greaseistheword.com.au