Getting groovy with Grease

Aug 18, 2013, 08:24 IST | Rinky Kumar

Two years after The Sound of Music, Raell Padamsee is back with the musical adaptation of Grease. In a tete-a-tete with Rinky Kumar, she gets candid about why it was a logistical nightmare and her plans to helm a global production of the Mahabharata next year

What prompted you to choose Grease as your next production after The Sound of Music (SOM)?
We strive to do a big production every two years. After SOM, we wanted to present a grand musical that had iconic music and gave us enough opportunity to showcase the young talent of the city. Grease was the perfect choice.

Tara Sutaria and Khurshed Mogrelia
Newcomers Tara Sutaria and Khurshed Mogrelia play the lead roles in Grease

What do you mean when you say ‘grand’?
We wanted to give viewers a 360-degree performance. So everything had to be in perfect in terms of casting, sets and production value, etc. Viewers can expect motorbikes and cars on stage, actors singing mid-air and making entries and exits through audiences and sets coming in from the top.

How long has your team been working on it?

We have been working on it since a year. We conducted auditions across Mumbai and chose youngsters who could sing, dance, act as well as look the part. Also we started way ahead in advance as we need enough time to prepare them for the part through intensive rehearsals.

Could you take us through the kind of training that the lead actors, Tara Sutaria and Khurshed Mogrelia, and the rest of the cast underwent?
They have been undergoing dance training for three hours a day thrice a week since last year. Apart from that, they have been attending singing classes with a voice expert. They have been rehearsing for their roles for five to six hours every day. They had to undergo quirky exercises to build their stamina as all of them had to sing, dance and act on stage. So director Advait Hazarat would make each of them hold three bricks, while jogging and singing. This also helped them throw their voices.

What have been the major hurdles?
There have been plenty (laughs). Fundraising has been really tough. So we have raised enough money to last us for this round of shows. We are planning to have the next set of shows in December. Then, we will raise money again. Also, with almost 100 people in the cast and 150 people backstage, it has been a logistical nightmare to handle their rehearsal schedules. Moreover, as Grease is an iconic film, it has been extremely difficult. But we have stayed true to the script. At the end, it has been an exhilarating experience. We have a great team comprising director Advait Hazarat, associate director Karla Singh and choreographer Pearl Tirandaz, who had also worked on SOM.

What have been your most vivid memories of Grease, the film?
I love the last scene where Sandy (Olivia Newton John) walks in and Danny (John Travolta) is completely bowled over. The movie is evergreen. My eyes light up every time I watch it.

Which are the other musicals that you are working on?
Next year, I plan to present Mahabharata as a global production and right now we are also reviving my father (Alyque Padamsee’s) version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1971 musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

The global flavour of Grease
grease, the 1978 American musical, which follows the love story between a working-class youngster, Danny, (John Travolta) and Sandra (Olivia Newton John), who hails from a rich family, is memorable even today, thanks to its evergreen songs and foot-tapping music. But very few people know that the movie, touted as the highest-grossing musical in the United States till date, was actually based on a 1971 play by the same name. Over four decades after the production was first presented in Chicago, it continues to be revived on Broadway and Westend. A revived version will open at Brisbane later this year too.

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