Grease The Musical – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Reviewer: Dan English

Book, Lyrics and Music: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

Director: Nikolai Foster

Peter Andre and co. bring with them a sense of September Summer Lovin’ as Grease the Musical reaches Dartford’s Orchard Theatre as part of its much anticipated tour.

The production, which has been rescheduled twice, impacted by the pandemic, continues to bring to life the iconic 70s movie which made household names of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

The musical, just as the film, centres around the lives of teens Sandy (Ellie Kingdon) and Danny (Dan Partridge) as they encounter the trials and tribulations of the final year of high school, forthcoming adulthood and the burgeoning feeling of a whirlwind summer romance. Set among the backdrop of Rydell High, this musical production tenderly, and excitedly, captures the sweet nostalgia of the original film.

Peter Andre takes on double duty in this production, starring as both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine. Andre looks at home as DJ Fontaine as he serves as a bridge between scenes in this piece. Andre’s natural musicality is obvious and his charisma oozes in this role. In addition, Andre’s performance in the production’s second half threatens to steal the show, and allows him to showcase both his singing and dancing capabilities with aplomb.

As Sandy and Danny, Kingdon and Partridge quickly establish the central couple, and both give stellar performances in these leading roles. Ellie Kingdon, standing in for Georgia Louise, carries an exceptional voice and shines during her solos throughout the production. Partridge, likewise, carries cocky Danny well and smoothly bounces off Kingdon’s Sandy and rest of his castmates. Their relationship is believable, and just about manages to leap over some rather jarring plot holes as the piece reaches its climax.

Supporting the tense teens are Tendai Rinomhota and Paul French, who portray Rizzo and Kenickie respectively. Despite the candy-shop sweetness of the piece, Grease the Musical does not shy away from some moments of real grit, and this pair holds these moments together. Rinomhota, in particular, captures Rizzo’s bolshy, provocative, self but holds it together in the second half as her character’s life twists and turns. French is equally as impressive as Kenickie, bringing the rough and rugged rogue to life. French speaks with a strong cadence and looks at ease in what is his professional stage debut.

In addition, the show is held together by a hard-working ensemble cast. The production has an energy which is infectious and brings to life a show which is almost half a century old as if it were made yesterday, despite some of the piece’s most dated exchanges. Renowned choreographer Arlene Phillips steers the ensemble through challenging and entertaining routines, and these slick routines really are the highlight of this piece.

Colin Richmond, costume and scenic designer, has worked hard to immerse us into the play’s environment, even going as far as using contemporary adverts, projected onto the scrim upon arrival, to quickly immerse the audience into the play’s world.

There are a few disjointed moments to this piece, and, in truth, the songs added to this production do not do too much to add to the piece. Likewise, some lines of dialogue seem a little out-dated, but the charm of the show remains. Grease the Musical remains a fun night out, and an entertaining production nevertheless that will leave fans still summer loving heading into autumn.

Runs until 18 September 2021 then continues tour.

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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