MusicalReviewScotland

Grease – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Book, Music and Lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

Choreographer: Arlene Phillips

Director: Nikolai Foster

Summer’s over and Danny Zuko, a boy “as cute as can be” brags to his gang about a summer fling that “don’t mean a thing” with a girl called Sandy Dumbrowski. So beginsGrease, one of the world’s best-loved musicals. But the girl he thought he’d loved and left behind suddenly arrives at his high school. With his reputation as the coolest guy in town at risk, peer pressure on his shoulders but love on his mind, can he re-kindle the romance and bring about a happy ending to his final year at Rydell High School?
Nikolai Foster and his team at Leicester’s Curve have revived the familiar tale for the 21st Century. Foster has reverted to the grittier, 1971 stage version, originally a portrayal of working class (mainly Polish immigrant) kids from Chicago, and re-instated Danny’s gang’s name to the Burger Palace Boys and Sandy’s surname from Olsson back to Dumbrowski. Foster has managed to strip away much of the sanitisation the show has gone through in its journey to global acclaim (though grittier, it remains safe enough for a family audience).
The volume is firmly at 11 throughout and the live band in the pit are on fine form. When singing as a company the production soars. Unfortunately, that isn’t true of some of the individual performances where the vocals are not up to the demands of the score. That said, some of the songs have undergone new arrangements at the hands of Sarah Travis and while bringing something new, in songs so familiar to the audience, they can register as a little jarring.
Colin Richmond’s set is clever and functional and transforms simply but effectively from scene to scene. Of note though is Ben Cracknell’s lighting design which adds rich and moody tones to the action. Cracknell is a master of his craft.
With the show running late to start and a stage full of stand ins, the cast cope remarkably well. The energy levels and enthusiasm are unmatched and they execute Dame Arlene Phillips athletic choreography with razor sharp precision. Phillip’s choreo has nods to the 50s but has been brought bang up to date. The ensemble are the stand-outs and each is given their chance to shine. As for the leads: Danny Zuko is fine voiced but the actor’s portrayal needs to be a little rougher round the edges. Less successful is stand-in Sandy whose voice grates and whose vocal choices at times perplex as she struggles to fine the tune, her dancing skills too are thrown into sharp contrast besides a knock-out ensemble. Disappointing, but understandable as they have been thrown together tonight, there is a lack of chemistry between the pair and you really don’t care whether there’s a happy ending for them both or not.
With songs so famous, you can forget the story that weaves around them and this is where the material is showing its age. There are serious peaks and troughs to the action and the ending when it comes seems to do so pretty abruptly. There are numerous scenes where the narrative lags and you can’t help willing away the dialogue to get to the next song.
If the sold out, packed to the rafters audience is anything to go by then the appetite for this cheesy nostalgia-fest seems unabated. The songs are undeniably fantastic and this band and company certainly belt them out with gusto. If the cast isn’t subject to the huge amount of change that there was on this press night, then I am sure Grease will remain a firm favourite in the hearts of the theatre-going public.

Runs until 22 June 2024 | Image: Marc Brenner

The Reviews Hub Score

An energetic and enthusiastic company

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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