entertainment

Grease Review: 'There are worse things you could do than check it out'

Simon Button also writes that with new choreography and staging, this revival is full of surprises.

2022-05-18

Words: Simon Button; pictures: Manuel Harlan

When it comes to reviewing Grease The Musical the cliches write themselves. It’s the one that you want. Grease is the word. Tell me about it, stud.

The poster-friendly quips are as obvious as that full title is redundant. Grease The Musical as opposed to what? Grease The Opera? Grease The Japanese Noh Play?

Olivia Moore as Sandy & Dan Partridge as Danny in GREASE (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

To be fair, though, Grease on stage isn’t a carbon copy of the film. For starters the show came first, opening on Broadway in 1972 seven years before John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John headlined the movie.

Originally, Rydell High’s new pupil Sandy wasn’t Australian (that was changed because Olivia couldn’t do an American accent), 'We Go Together' came at the end of Act I, and 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' and 'You’re the One That I Want' were nowhere to be heard. Nor for that matter was 'Grease' itself.

The three songs were written for the film but have since been incorporated into numerous revivals, the latest of which at London’s Dominion Theatre arrives in the shadow of a social media debate a couple of years ago about whether Sandy’s transformation from nice girl to vamp to please bad boy Danny was seen as rampant misogyny.

It's worth noting that Newton-John deftly countered that by pointing out that Danny also changes to please Sandy.

Left to Right (front centre) Jessica Croll as Patty Simcox, Olivia Moore as Sandy, and Eloise Davies as Frenchie, with the company in GREASE (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Under the direction of Nikolai Foster, the story is the same: Arriving at Rydell High, goody-two-shoes Sandy is reluctantly recruited by the Pink Ladies as she bumps into summer fling Danny, who hides his feelings for her lest he put a serious dent in his standing as the coolest of the Burger Palace Boys. (They were the T-Birds in the film.)

But the first West End revamp in 29 years has new choreography and staging, and it restores some songs from the Broadway original - making this Grease full of surprises.

Paul French as Kenickie (centre) and the company in GREASE (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

The 1950s bobbysoxer costumes are still bright but the lighting is subdued, the setting is a dark suburb rather than sunny California, Paul French’s Kenickie exudes an air of menace and his gang mates are horny teenagers who think with their ever-thrusting groins.

The big numbers are exuberantly choreographed by Arlene Phillips and it’s thrilling when the 24-strong cast line up at the front of the stage with moves that are as tight as their torsos. Peter Andre camps it up nicely in the dual roles of DJ Vince Fontaine and crooner Teen Angel, although his thin vocals don’t really do 'Beauty School Drop Out' justice.

Peter Andre as Vince Fontaine (centre) with the company in GREASE (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Dan Partridge is a sexy, cocky Danny but he lacks charm, which makes you wonder what Sandy sees in him. As Sandy herself, Olivia Moore, is more take-no-shit than teenager in love and she sings the hell out of 'Hopelessly Devoted to You', but she is oddly absent for much of the show.

Supporting cast members like Jocasta Almgill as a snappy Rizzo and Noah Harrison as an endearing Roger make more of an impression in what is sometimes an odd mix of nostalgia and new attitudes but is still a lot of fun.

There are worse things you could do than check it out.

Rating: 3/5

Grease The Musical is at the Dominion Theatre until 29 October. For more information visit greasemusical.co.uk and for great deals on tickets and shows click here.

The Attitude May/June issue is out now.