Catty Hamilton is thinking pink

Catty Hamilton is thinking pink
Image: The Pink Ladies and Sandy in GREASE, 2024 photo: Jeff Busby

Grease is back in Sydney, and this current production promises the familiar nostalgic, youthful buzz audiences have come to expect from the popular musical — but it’s also very different.   

“This is going to be a completely new, fresh, reimagined version of Grease…it’s going to be something a lot grittier, a lot grungier…more urban, more teen angsty, more dangerous,” says Catty Hamilton, who plays Pink Lady, Frenchy in this new mounting. “[It’s] going to get back to Grease’s roots.”

Catty Hamilton. Image: portfolio

Grease’s roots are contained in its storyline; writer, Jim Jacobs, based the musical on his actual experiences attending William Howard Taft High School, in Chicago in the 1950s. Many of the characters and plot lines in Grease are based on real people and events — including the Pink Ladies. 

“The Pink Ladies were the toughest broads I’ve ever seen, before or since,” Jacobs told the Chicago Reader in a 2011 interview. They were a gang of young women who smoked, swore, and were rebellious in every way. 

The real Pink Ladies, Chicago, c1956 Photo – The Chicago Reader

The first iteration of Grease, written by Jacobs and co-writer, Warren Casey, was sombre, raw and filled with profanities. The characters were dark, mean, threatening, yet it still had vitality and appeal. It was a success in Chicago where it debuted, but when the show was invited to New York it had to be cleaned up. For the 1978 film adaptation, Grease was almost completely sanitised. 

Jim Jacobs. Image: stock

Hamilton says this new show will still feature many of the beloved elements from the wildly popular film, but it will reflect the edginess of the original stage production. She has modelled her version of Frenchy on Didi Conn’s portrayal of the character in the film, but  added her own personal touches. 

“With a role like Frenchy, she’s so iconic…people remember the pink hair,” says Hamilton.

“She’s a very kind-hearted, warm character and person, and as well, I loved her little iconic voice from the movie, so, you know, I have taken flavours of the movie character’s voice to make it my own.”

Hamilton and the other Pink Ladies worked with director, Luke Joslin, and a dialect coach to build a universe around their characters, addressing questions that go beyond the scope of the script.

Cast, GREASE, 2024 Photo-Jeff Busby

“Where were you guys before the show and where are you going after? What’s your family like? What’s your favourite food…” explains Hamilton. 

She also watched a few episodes of the new streaming series, Pink Ladies, which is a kind of prequel to Grease and gives a back story to the gang. Ultimately, however, Hamilton is making Frenchy very much her own. 

Grease, of course, has many iconic characters and this production features some incredible performers in those roles. It also showcases some Aussie entertainment legends.

Patti Newton and cast, GREASE, 2024 Photo-Jeff Busby

“We have the most incredible seasoned pros in our cast. We have beautiful Patti Newton playing Miss Lynch, which is just phenomenal — to work with, you know a giant in our industry as her. We have Marcia Hines, obviously as beautiful teen angel, and we have Jay Laga’aia as Vince Fontaine, so it is a star-studded cast,” says Hamilton.

The Grease songbook is an entity in itself. The soundtrack album from the 1978 film is one of the highest selling albums of all time and many of the songs were Top 10 hits, including additional songs written by the Barry Gibb and John Farrar which are now part of the stage production. 

Marcia Hines, GREASE, 2024 Photo-Jeff Busby

So, does Hamilton have any favourites? 

“Oh yeah, it’s the first number in the show, ‘Grease Is The Word’.  Hearing the band…[imitates the opening bars]…it’s just so exciting, the audience goes crazy every night for it. “Another favourite of mine is ‘Summer Nights’, you know, that’s when you get to really play around with the Pink Ladies and Patty Simcox and Sandy — we all kinda feed off each other’s energy. And then how could I forget ‘Beauty School Drop Out’. It’s just the most incredible thing to have Marcia Hines sing to you every night…12-year old Catty is just jumping out of her skin with excitement.”

At the very end of the show a mash-up is played of all the big hits so that the audience gets a chance to sing and dance. Sounds like bobby-sox and sneakers are the way to go. 

Now playing

Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell St, Haymarket

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