A new touring production of the classic musical Grease opened at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night, and although it was a real crowd pleaser with the appreciative audience simply loving it, you may not recognise all the songs and scenes if you are a fan of the musical film version.
There can’t be anyone (my husband aside) who hasn’t seen the film version of this much loved musical at least once. The story of a holiday romance between Danny and Sandy, that is hampered by Danny’s ego and friends, and Sandy’s squeaky clean persona when she just happens to start at his school, Rydall High, after the summer, is one that is known and loved. Add in a score of memorable supporting performances from the likes of Rizzo, Kenickie and Frenchie and a score of sublime, singalong songs, and you have the failsafe recipe for success. Or maybe not.
The problem with this version of Grease is that some of the leads are not quite up to the roles. Danielle Hope is the standout as Sandy, her beautiful voice soars on ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, and she has Sandy’s saccharine sweetness off to a tee. She was born to play this role and does so with ease. Her Danny Zuco is not quite as successful. Tom Parker handles the acting scenes quite well, showing plenty of personality. He is also a talented dancer, showing off his skills during the sublime Hand Jive scene. Where he struggles is the vocals, he is just not up to the demands of the songs, Sandy in particular is painful to watch and listen to.
Louisa Lytton has her moments as Rizzo, her poise is so good in the opening scene, and her performance of ‘There are worse things I can do’ is plaintive and touching. But ‘Sandra Dee’ has none of the bite and sarcasm that Stockard Channing showed in the same role, and suffers as a result.
The supporting cast are great though, Tom Senior is a fine Kenickie and ‘Greased Lightnin’ is brilliantly performed. Rhiannon Chesterman is perfect as Frenchie, and her ‘Beauty School dropout’ scene is another standout, with George Olney super as the teen angel, playing it with his tongue firmly in cheek. Eugene (Callum Edwards), Jan (Rosanna Harris) and Doody (Ryan Heenan) are all funny and scene stealing, whilst Sonny and Marty (Michael Cortez and Lauren Atkins) both make the most of their roles.
The staging of the musical numbers is great, and having a live band on the stage is a real plus point, but ultimately the story feels very disjointed – Sandy seems to only have one date with Danny throughout the musical, and on all other occasions when she meets him he acts like a complete jerk, making it difficult to understand why she would make such a transformation for this guy, she should stick to her twee frock and make a move for Kenickie instead.
Grease has great songs, great supporting performances and a lovely lead in Danielle Hope, but it could have been so much more.
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