sat 22/06/2024

Grease, Dominion Theatre review - a super night out, great songs well sung and spectacular dancing | reviews, news & interviews

Grease, Dominion Theatre review - a super night out, great songs well sung and spectacular dancing

Grease, Dominion Theatre review - a super night out, great songs well sung and spectacular dancing

Crowdpleaser pleases crowd: this High School musical delivers what its audience wants

Hey, look at me! Peter Andre and the cast of 'Grease'Manuel Harlan

Barry Gibb was at the considerable peak of his era-defining songwriting powers when he provided the song that played over the opening titles of the iconic 1978 film, so it's a wise decision by director, Nikolai Foster, to go straight into "Grease is the Word" after a brief prologue.

The energetic dancing by the boys and girls of Rydell High, the strength of the harmonies and the warm familiarity of the tune builds two bridges – one back to the movie, the other across the fourth wall. For all its flaws, this new production recognises that, perhaps in big musicals more than any other genre outside pantomine, the audience must be made complicit in the night's entertainment.

Soon we're introduced to the lovers we saw briefly on the beach – Sandy is pretty much the same prim and proper girl who always went to convent school, but Danny is the leader of the pack, his Burger Palace Boys in Brando-ish biker jackets, hanging round street corners, bad boys in that innocent, late 1950s sense of the phrase. We buckle up for the ride with the ill-matched couple, pretty much knowing their on-off romance's resolution, but wondering exactly what tone will be adopted, because even in the 1970s, Sandy's late transformation felt rather crass.

GreaseOh, yes – we need to talk about the elephant, well, giant star, in the room: Peter Andre. Truth be told, he's a lot of fun as Vince Fontaine, the DJ with the ersatz rapping, and turns the camp up to 11 as Teen Angel for "Beauty School Drop Out". His vast legion of social media followers and sprinkling of stardust will justify his fee and, even if he doesn't possess a West End voice, he looks like he's having a whale of a time – and that matters to us and, no doubt, everyone else on stage. As stunt casting goes, there's a lot worse on the record and he's laid down a marker for Jason Donovan, who will cover selected dates with his own brand of charm.

It would be easy to criticise Dan Partridge (Danny) and Olivia Moore (Sandy) for lacking chemistry, but that's pretty much both the point of their faltering romance and the justification for Sandy's Damascene conversion. Moore nails her 11 o'clock number, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" – even on opening night, you could hear a false eyelash drop in the house. She also invests Sandy with more agency in her choice initially to bury and subsequently to enhance her considerable sexual power – she's never really a "Sandra Dee". This more assertive 2022 Sandy is underlined by her outfit for "You're the One That I Want", one that owed less to Olivia Newton-John's sex kitten and cigarette look and more to Grace Jones' BDSM inflected dominatrix. 

Elsewhere, the girls stand out more than the boys, Jocasta Almgill (pictured above, with Olivia Moore) embracing the wonderful part of Rizzo with both arms, scoring a bullseye with a magnificent "There Are Worse Things I Could Do", a song suddenly terrifyingly relevant again as Roe vs Wade cowers under the gavel of the US Supreme Court. Mary Moore brims with charm as Jan, the girl who finds that opposites really do attract in "Mooning" and Katie Lee brings Strictly Pro level moves to the floor as Cha Cha. A mention too for the underused Lizzy-Rose Esin-Kelly, who lights up the stage whenever Marty sings.

For all the narrative parallels (and more than a few nods back to the original musical, with revived songs and an ever-present edge), Grease is no West Side Story – but nobody is expecting that. Punters will pay for some great songs well-sung, spectacular dancing from beautiful people, and a trip back to times that were, for all their problems, that little bit more straightforward. It's a production that might not linger long in the memory (although I now know that Peter Andre is really quite short of stature) but it's a super night out. In other words, it succeeds on its own terms and we can't ask for much more than that. 

Peter Andre is a lot of fun as Vince Fontaine and turns the camp up to 11 as Teen Angel


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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