Book, music, and lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Director: Nikolai Foster
It was hard to tell if the goosebumps were from being back in a packed theatre, or if it was chills, multiplying with the opening chords of this popular musical.
Director Nikolai Foster’s Grease – The Musical continues its national tour after being interrupted by the pandemic. Set in 1959 at an American high school (Rydell High), the story follows the lives of ten students at the top of the school, navigating the challenges of romance, friendship, and identity as the class looks forward to the 1959 Halloween Ball.
The original song list (later extended for the film version) contains some of the biggest selling singles of all time, most notably, Summer Nights, and You’re The One That I Want, and it was these (and many others) that sent the electric thrills through the audience, who were delighted to be back in the theatre.
Set in the rock ‘n’ roll era, the show draws heavily on the music, looks, and culture of the time. This hugely influential period lends itself to Jacobs and Casey’s sound, looks, and choreography and provides a wealth of raw material for the production. Choreographer, Arlene Phillips, has plenty of inspiration for some hugely energetic dance routines involving the entire cast at times. Scene and costume designer, Colin Richmond, immerses the production in fashion from the era, dressing the cast in full circle skirts, jeans, and leather jackets. The girl’s backcombed hair and the boy’s greased-down looks are all hugely evocative of this familiar age. Not to be overlooked is the full-size car (‘Greased Lightnin’) pushed on stage – complete with wings and moldings evoking the fifties.
Dan Partridge as Danny Zuko and Ellie Kingdon as Sandy take the principal roles. Peter Andre must be a casting dream as Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine, judging by the roar of approval from the Bristol audience. Strangely, there feels like little chemistry between many of the casting partnerships, and Andre’s ‘moves’ at times seemed perhaps a little rushed and over-repeated. Also somewhat disappointing, is the lack of drama and impact at the introduction of some of the songs, most notably as Sandy makes her tightly clad appearance to shock Danny for You’re The One That I Want. Still more frustrating is the continuing issue with acoustics, when the cast seems to have to shout over the sound of the orchestra and much of the spoken asides are lost.
However, none of that made much difference to the hugely appreciative Bristol audience. Everyone was out of their seats at the end, happy to listen and finally sing-a-long to so many favourite songs of the show, and of all time.
Runs until 25th September 2021