David Gilmore’s electrifying production is plenty of fun to watch but lacking in personality in some of the key performances.
This classic musical about a group of teenagers growing up in the 1950’s, learning about love and the bond of friendship is energetically revived in this entertaining production but at the sacrifice of characterisations that don’t feel quite fully formed.
It is clear that much of the emphasis of this production is the music and the choreography by Arlene Phillips to keep the audiences engaged with the story. This is where the production is at its strongest, with some great sequences to ‘Grease is the Word’ and ‘Born to Hand Jive’ that really liven the production up and get the audience excited.
For those who loved the original 1970’s film and never seen Grease performed on stage might be slightly surprised to see differences in where the songs are placed in the story, but it actually works quite well ,driving the story forward and keeping it going with great pace that time flies by.
There is no getting away from the fact that the story is pretty corny, but the fact that the production fully embraces it by relying on many well placed ‘so bad they’re good’ jokes and really capturing the 1950’s with the set and costumes, means that there is something that fans of the film and the musical to enjoy.
However, what makes this production more hit and miss is some of the key performances. Making his stage debut, The Wanted’s Tom Parker doesn’t really have the charisma and swagger to fully be convincing as Danny – he looked uncomfortable a lot of the time and never fully embraces the character. Also slightly disappointing was Louisa Lytton as Rizzo – her character never being sassy enough except for the occasional finger click and vocally needing a lot more sharpness and edge, particularly during ‘Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee’ there is no sense of vindictiveness towards Sandy – it is too sweetly sung.
But despite this there are still some great performances to be enjoyed including Danielle Hope as Sandy, whose character blossoms in front of your very eyes and delivers a wonderful performance of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ is understated but meaningful. Her interpretation is of a girl who always had the ability to stand up for herself but just needed encouragement is a refreshing perspective rather than Sandy just being ‘pure’.
Other strong and enjoyable performances come from Ryan Heenan as Doody who delivers a lovely performance of ‘Those Magic Changes’ , George Olney as Vince Fontaine – delightfully corny and Rosanna Harris delightfully perky as Jan.
Overall, it is a very spirited and well intentioned production but is slightly disappointing in terms of characterisations in key roles. But it is still worth a visit if you loved the film and want to relive it in front of your own eyes.