Book, Music and Lyrics: Jim Jacobs
Director: David Gilmor
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
For an audience wanting to hear the Grease soundtrack performed live, Grease offers all you could want. For an audience wanting a musical that stands in its own right, Grease will leave you disappointed.
While it was a stage show before it was a movie, the version of the show that has been doing the rounds for some years is a hybrid mix of the original and the film, with the producers correctly guessing that the appeal of a show without the likes of Summer Nights and You’re the One That I Want would be somewhat limited.
The problem is that outside of the songs and the connection with the film, it doesn’t make a lot of sense and doesn’t have a lot to offer. The storyline is reduced to the basics. If you don’t know the film you won’t get any real sense of how Danny and Sandy’s relationship develops, what happens to make Sandy burst into proclaiming that she’s hopelessly devoted to him, or why he’s with her at the drive-in when he’s been distancing himself from her for so long before.
As for the other characters and their storylines, you would be hard pressed to say almost anything about them, as they are reduced to call and response lines that at times feel like you’re watching a trailer rather than the full thing.
The set changes also lack the slickness of great musicals with the set frequently plunged into darkness, or songs and scenes played out on an almost bare stage while, somewhere behind the actors, the next scene is prepared.
The songs themselves don’t really hang together to tell an unfolding story, again requiring a knowledge of the film to know how they all fit, and with the medley that brings the show to an end, there is no avoiding the conclusion that this is a greatest-hits set rather than a bona-fide musical. But, as a greatest-hits set, it works well.
Danielle Hope as Sandy has a voice that captures the emotion of the songs and her character, and also has the power to make these songs that would work outside of the context of the show. Tom Parker as Danny brings his experience as a member of boy band The Wanted to his performance, working well as part of a team sharing vocal duties, and relishing the solo opportunity presented by Sandy.
There are other good solo performances and the ensemble numbers lift the energy levels with good choreography going some way to compensating for the limits of the stage set and the absence of any lighting or other special effects to grab your attention.
It isn’t enough to make this a show that would get people coming back time after time if it didn’t have the connection with the film, and it also feels as if story and plot have been sacrificed for extended versions and reprises of songs. The jokes and visual gags are there, but the characters and situations that lie behind them don’t come out.
Disappointing if you want a proper musical, or a stage version of the film, but if you’re just looking for the songs being sung live, you’ll go home happy.
Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Paul Coltas