Everybody who’s seen Grease loves Grease.
It’s impossible not to hear those opening titles and not be dragged back to the 50’s to the world of the T Birds, the Pink Ladies and the bubble of High School nostalgia along with classic hit songs that I have no shame in admitting I’ve ended many a school AND adult night out to. Just as I’ve air punched through the tongue in cheek lyrics of Greased Lightening and crooned to Hopelessly Devoted, I’ve bounced on my bed, hair brush in hand for what I would describe as a faultless rendition of Sandra Dee.
You making fun of me, reader?
When Grease opened at the Regent Theatre on Monday evening, I couldn’t wait to rejoice in the storyline for the millionth time, swoon over Zucko baby and experience the story how it was originally intended to be enjoyed… on stage.
It’s not widely known that the 1978 film starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta was based on a 1971 musical of the same name that originally featured none other than a young Richard Gere as the leather jacket wearing and slick haired Danny Zucko. Bronte Woodard took Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s all American love story along with a Cadillac full of songs from the stage and turned it into the much loved film.
Opening the show with an overture from the fantastic live band on stage, the familiar sounds set the scene for the hive of activity that is Rydell High School. An ensemble of vocals and familiar faces come together for an energetic performance of Grease is the Word that kicks off the show before our introduction to Danny and Sandy.
After spending most of their summer at the beach, making out under the stars and drinking lemonade until 10 o clock, the loved up pair come face to face on Sandy’s first day at Rydell and keen to save his reputation, Danny doesn’t act particularly overjoyed to see his summer romance.
Musical theatre star Danielle Hope who has Les Miserables and The Sound of Music roles under her petticoat takes the lead as whiter than white Sandra Dee and her portrayal and vocal performances throughout the show really are outstanding. For me, the Sandra Dee Reprise was beautiful as was the moving performance of It’s Raining on Prom Night which was left out of the 1978 film adaptation. I wanted to love the performance of Hopelessly Devoted because for me its one of the stand out songs of the show but although it was delivered note perfect, I felt the staging of it meant it was a little disconnected from the rest of the show.
Tom Parker of The Wanted fame took to the stage for his first theatrical role and picked up the comb of teen heartthrob, Danny Zucko. For me, Travolta’s shoes are a hard pair to fill and I didn’t feel like Tom was quite up to the job, mainly in the first act. His vocals seemed a little shaky and the role wasn’t delivered with conviction, although I did feel that his delivery got stronger in the second act. Tom pulled it back with the big performance of Sandy and his knee slide during You’re The One That I Want set my pulse racing. The stage presence is something I imagine will improve given time and may even have been attributed to a case of nerves given that it was opening night.
Sass was brought to the production by former Eastenders star, Louisa Lytton as Rizzo. Although her vocals could have been stronger, Louisa nailed Rizzo’s feisty nature and really brought this key character to life. There was an especially poignant scene between Rizzo and Sandy and There Are Worse Things I Could Do stripped the character back entirely and showed the vulnerability of the hard skinned Pink Ladies leader.
Outstanding performances were delivered by George Olney as Teen Angel who actually made me enjoy Beauty School Drop Out (one of the low points of the film IMO) and Ryan Heenan as Doody was a breath of fresh air.
Although it wasn’t everything I was expecting due to me being a complete Grease the movie purist, there was no denying that the show was a hit with the audience who were up on their feet by the end of the night and ready to Hand Jive. The enthusiastic energy of both cast and band brought the nostalgia, feel good factor and the magic of both song and story to the Regent Theatre and even my 9 year old date for the evening was begging to stop by the concessions stand to bag himself a T Birds tshirt after the show.
Grease runs until 27th May at the Regent Theatre and tickets are available via the Box Office or online.