AFTER TWENTY FIVE YEARS
Grease started life in 1971 as a play with music based on the lives of its authors Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and their experiences of growing up in a working class environment in the 50’s.
It was seen by two Broadway producers, who asked them to rework the play into a musical and launched in New York in 1972.
The original work was a gritty tale about the problems associated with teenagers battling through the problems of high school – and this is what director, Nikolai Foster’s new production is all about.
He’s got rid of the candy floss mantle of the film put a fresh spin on the show reflecting the social issues, morals and choices faced by 50’s adolescents without destroying that Grease magic.
New songs have been added that slip easily into the story including The Tattoo Song and How Big I’m Gonna Be.
But it’s old favourites that steal the show including Greased Lightening, Hopelessly Devoted to You, We Go Together and Summer Nights that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
Foster’s production is seamless with some beautifully contrasting scenes that slip effortlessly from comedy to more serious teen issues. Grease is a dream for any choreographer and Arlene Phillip’s excellent artistic input can only be described as amazing. Her routines are perfectly matched to the situation and music, new steps and patterns roll out with every number. They are so fast and furious at times one wonders how she’s managed to get such a multitude of steps into so many bars!
But despite its high points Grease has some weak spots technically and design wise. The set design is confused, far too busy and seems to have had every type of stage set thrown at it, so much so that it becomes distracting. The press night show was plagued with technical problems mostly sound issues which resulted in the show being paused for a while. However hopefully these will be ironed out as the run continues.
The ultimate success of Grease lies with its cast. They are young, energetic and vibrant and have developed some convincing characterizations.
Dan Partridge’s Danny is smooth, cool and smouldering. Partridge has developed the role and made it his own with great success and teams well with newcomer Martha Kirby’s spirited and determined Sandy.
Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky’s, Betty Rizzo is outstanding in every way especially her vocals, whilst Damian Buhagiar’s characterization of Sonny Latieri is pure gold.
But the biggest disappointment of the night for a lot of the audience was seeing top star Peter Andre for less than four minutes in the second half in the cameo role at Teen Angel, which albeit short, was a sheer joy to watch.
However not everyone appreciates what or how small a cameo role can be and many fans were disappointed by Mr Andre’s short time on stage; perhaps the over zealous marketing campaign should have pointed this out and fans would have been prepared for the brief appearance of their hero.
Andre shares the role of Teen Angel with Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Obuba. To find out which nights they appear visit the theatre website on leedsgrandtheatre.com.
The show runs until 20 July. To book call 0844 848 2700 or click here.
Liz Coggins is a member of The Critics Circle