Grease, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review and pictures
It is hard to believe that it is more than 40 years since John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John burst onto the silver screen in 1978, wowing the nation with the hit teen musical Grease - but in fact it all began before then.
Grease first hit the big time on stage in Chicago back in 1971 prior to being made into a movie. Several stage adaptations have followed and I guess, in its time, Grease must have been considered to be a new and slightly shocking musical, yet it remains as popular today as it was back then.
Based on a fictional all-American high school, Rydell High, the title comes from the name of a group of working-class youths in the 1950s knows as 'greasers' and despite being the embodiment of musical comedy, the storyline does in fact tackle some pretty contentious issues including smoking, teenage pregnancy, gang violence and peer pressure, all of which makes it realistic amid all the frills and romance for which musical theatre is known and loved.
The 2017 UK tour romped into the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night, with a stellar cast, including boy band sensation The Wanted’s Tom Parker as heartthrob T-Birds leader Danny Zuko, winner of hit BBC series Over the Rainbow, Danielle Hope as the girl next door Sandy, and Eastenders and Strictly star Louisa Lytton as good-time girl Rizzo.
There is almost a cult following for Grease and surprisingly from a cross section of the family; from youngsters to mums and dads, from teenagers to grannies. Hopefully the cruder remarks and gestures (and there are few!) sail over the heads of the younger members of the audience, while raising a smile amongst the adults. Personally, I don’t see the need to include them, because the show would stand on its own, but then I guess it is set in a 1950s American high school.
Fairly standard scenery for a touring production is enhanced by Mark Henderson’s excellent lighting designs while Andreane Neofitou’s costumes remain true to the movie.
Grease is a very well-constructed musical in terms of the flow of the scenes and director David Gilmore has ensured the whole production moves effortlessly along.
The outstanding and instantly recognisable choreography of Arlene Phillips is evident throughout, executed by a young, highly energetic, superbly talented group of performers who deliver on every level. I love the fact that the whole cast are named characters and play their individual roles to the max.
Tom Parker as Danny may be a successful pop idol, but musical theatre singing technique is a very different game. His is therefore not the strongest vocal performance of the night by any means, though during his solo Sandy he had the audience in the palm of his hand. This is without doubt because Tom has charisma and charm in spades and the ladies loved him. He also offers a surprisingly good dance performance too.
Louisa Lytton is every inch the bad girl, Rizzo, with plenty of swagger and sway and a great accent. The score of Grease simply oozes hit after hit and Louisa certainly delivered There Are Worse Things I Could Do with conviction, though just a touch more emotion may have helped to connect with the audience.
There are some excellent cameo roles, in particular from Natasha Mould as Patty, who took quite an irritating character and made her amusing and loveable, and Callum Evans as Eugene who displays excellent comic timing and dance skills.
There are stand out performances from Rosanna Harris as Jan and Oliver Jacobson as Roger, who together display superb vocals in Moonin’ and George Olney who completely commands the stage as Teen Angel.
But the whole evening really belongs to Danielle Hope as Sandy, who is perfectly cast as the girl next door who transforms into the high school beauty in order to win her man.
Danielle sings, acts and dances her heart out throughout the whole show, delivering favourite Grease classics including, It’s Raining on Prom Night, Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee and of course the wonderful ballad, Hopelessly Devoted to You, with ease. Add to that an accomplished dramatic performance and excellent dance skills and she is the complete musical theatre package.
Finally, I have to mention the incredible band, under the musical direction of Griff Johnson who rock the joint from start to finish.
This young, vibrant, energic cast have breathed new life into Grease, ensuring it is still The One that You Want even after all this time.
A feel-good show offering superb entertainment just before the festive season hits and pantomime takes over!
Runs until Saturday. Call 01902 429212 or click here to book.