Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Additional songs: Barry Gibb, John Farrer, Louis St Louis and Scott Simon
Director: David Gilmore
Reviewer: Taylor Simmons
Grease, the smash hit musical based in the heydey of rock ‘n’ roll, has been a phenomenal success since it burst on to the scene in the 1970s. Although famous from its 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, the show began much before that and opened off-broadway in 1972. With its boy meets girl storyline and the nostalgia of teenage life in the 1950s, audiences continue to flock to the theatre to watch this much-loved favourite. This touring production is lively and full of energy and boasts a line-up of household names including Tom Parker as Danny, Danielle Hope as Sandy and Louisa Lytton as Rizzo.
Parker, as Danny, seems on the surface a good choice for this role. Known most notably for being a member of the boy band The Wanted, he sings the role well and certainly looks the part. However, Parker’s interpretation of Danny is lacking some much-needed testosterone and thus at times comes across as an immature schoolboy. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to root for him to end up with Sandy at the end. Hope, as Sandy, is the perfect choice for this role. Her youthful look and delivery convey the innocence required for this role, creating a likeable ingénue that can sometimes be difficult to create. Since she burst on to the scene in 2010 when she won BBC’s Over The Rainbow, her voice has grown in strength and quality – her version of Hopelessly Devoted to You was particularly a highlight, conveying the range of emotions felt by a broken-hearted teen.
Lytton, star of Eastenders and The Bill, is visually everything you want from a Rizzo. She is sassy, stylish and the epitome of the ‘popular girl’ that Rizzo represents. Her mannerisms perfectly matched the expectations of the character and certainly, as an audience member, you feel great empathy for her plight in act two. The only downside was that Lytton’s vocal ability did not match the strength of her character and, as such, her songs were rather more ‘girly’ than the ‘ballsy’ interpretation given by Stockard Channing in the film.
As Teen Angel, George Olney was an audience favourite. From the moment he stepped on to the stage, the audience were in the palm of his hand. With powerful vocals and strong physicality, Olney epitomises everything you want from Teen Angel. It certainly didn’t matter that headliner Darren Day wasn’t a part of the Stoke leg of the tour.
The largely youthful company have huge energy and this is largely what drives the show. The choreography by Arlene Phillips is powerfully constructed and a real strength of the production. The T-Birds, made up of Tom Senior (Kenickie), Ryan Keenan (Doody), Oliver Jacobson (Roger), and Michael Cortez (Sonny) are well cast and create some much-needed drive in the production. Oliver Jacobson as Roger particularly stood out with his well-timed comedy moments and Tom Senior as Kenickie provides the testosterone that Danny seemed to lack. The Pink Ladies portrayed by Rhiannon Chesterman (Frenchy), Lauren Atkins (Marty) and Rosanna Harris (Jan) ably compliment their male counterparts – their quirky interpretations and strong singing add fun and vibrancy to the production.
The set is minimalistic but purposeful – at times, the stage looked rather empty but the larger set pieces of the bleachers and the diner were effective and really added to the production. The band of seven create a vibrant sound authentic to the 1950s era; they were featured on the stage at a number of points in the show and it’s thanks to this that the audience are wanting to sing and dance along to the many popular songs in the show.
If you’re looking for an evening of high energy, laughs and nostalgia that will fill your summer nights, get down to Grease.
Runs until Saturday 27th May | Image: Paul Coltas