For Stuart Frank it was now or never if he wanted to fulfil his childhood dream of playing Danny Zuko in Grease.
Fareham Musical Society’s latest production is of the hit musical, which was made into a 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Stuart says: ‘This is pretty much a boyhood dream part for me, ever since I saw the film about 20 years ago. It was on my wishlist to do and I’m at an age now where – I turn 30 this year – this is going to be my last chance to do it or otherwise it will look too stupid. It’s a bit of a now or never situation!
‘I was about 5 or 6 when I saw it for the first time, and John Travolta is the epitome of cool in that film, for me – I just wanted to be like Danny Zuko and in the T-Birds.’
Stuart has appeared in Grease before, for a company in Bognor five years ago.
‘They were doing auditions for Danny and Kenickie – those were the two parts they had left. It was me and another guy, and they ended up casting me as Kenickie and him as Danny. I just missed out – it was still a great part, but I felt at the time like I’d probably missed my last chance to be Danny. So when FMS said we’re doing Grease, I thought, can I just about get away with it? And I thought, I can push it, and I was very fortunate to get it.’
Now he’s got the coveted lead role, Danny can’t wait to get back on stage.
‘From the performance aspect of it, you almost feel like you’re coming off some big rock tour or something, the audience are so into it.
‘It’s the only show I’ve done where they know the songs so well, people get so into it, by the end you’ve got this massive rush of euphoria from the audience which gives you a massive high.’
Playing the Sandy to his Danny, is Grace Campbell.
‘Grace has recently come up from the FMS Youth Theatre, so this is her first lead part with the company. It’s been a really big challenge for her, but one she’s taken to brilliantly.’
Stuart has been working with the youth theatre for a couple of years as a director.
‘It’s really weird, we’ve got some of the older kids who are like 15-16 who we’ve brought in to boost the chorus up for this, and just so we’ve got enough younger bodies of high school age on stage.
‘I work with them on Wednesday nights and then on Tuesday and Thursday we’re all part of the one team doing the same show together which is great.
‘On Wednesday I’m giving them critiques, then Tuesday and Thursday they’re seeing me getting the exact same treatment from our director, and it’s like: “Urgh, that’s a bit awkward!” But it’s all good fun.’
And he’s getting those notes from director Sam Sampson.
‘It’s been brilliant having him on board with this,’ says Stuart. ‘With Grease you can look at it as a bubblegum-pop show, where the audience would be satisfied as long as the songs are there and are performed well, but Michael’s really strong on character development, he really gets behind the back-story of characters.
‘Even from an ensemble perspective, he’s get everyone on stage to think about why they’re there at Rydell High, what’s going on in their day-to-day, who are their friends, are they a geek, are they popular?
‘What’s been really good is that he’s taken an approach to a show that could just be the typical, “let’s do the big numbers” and that would be that, but he’s taken a much more directive approach asking why the characters do this, and why they interact the way they do.
‘He’ll give the audience the feel they want, and what they hope to see, but at the same time you’ll get a slight difference – there’s a bit of thought gone in to the character-work.’
Grease will be Stuart’s last show for a little while though – he’s got other pressing matters heading his way.
‘I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from performing after this as my wife is pregnant with twins – I’m swapping Danny Zuko for Daddy Zuko! They’re due in February.
‘I was going to be directing the next show for FMS, which is a compilation show, but it’s the same week as they’re due, so I thought I’d better pass...’
Ferneham Hall, Fareham