Grease The Musical Review | Opera House | Manchester
Bringing a feel-good frenzy of rearranged tracks, catsuits and cars, Grease the Musical returns for a restrained renovation of its 1978 film.
The California teen musical sees Australian Sandy Dee attempt to rekindle a lost summer fling after relocating to Rydell High School in which her American summer love, Danny Zuko happens to reside. With a capable cast donning the Pink Ladies cardigan and the timeless leather jackets taken up by Dan Patridge (Danny) and Paul French (Kenickie), the live show packs its own memorable punch.
Director Nikolai Foster prioritises the energy of the movie with a lovingly remodelled production that turns up the heat and volume on all of your favourite filmed scenes. However, the live shows new formation of the classics will shock die-hard fans of the feature film as Foster chooses an unfaithful retelling that ties in unfamiliar songs like the Tattoo Song and Mooning for its large cast of characters to seize. Illustrated with dazzling set pieces and props, this lyrical look at the lives of the untamed youth plays out a multitude of stories surrounding friendship, love and a fear of the future. Magnified by the musically gifted cast led by Patridge and Ellie Kingdon (Sandy), the show keeps the iconic movie characters at the forefront, with Partridge giving an amusing John Travolta impression.
This production has been dramatically edited for the overly familiar crowd, including additional dialogue and scenes that tamper with the old faithful story formula, almost beyond recognition. As the show removes some of the expected visuals, it draws its strength from the company who do an admirable job peddling the unfamiliar stage material to the Opera House audience. Patridge brings an energetic and impressive performance, with the moves to match his solid vocals, but the shows countless bops means that the majority of the ensemble have their own time to shine without him in the picture. A memorable solo performance by Tendai Rinomhota (Rizzo) for the song, There Are Worse Things I Could Do was only upstaged by the cheers of the crowd, who were determined to join the live production.
Packed with intense dance routines and absurd dream sequences, the musicals strong arrangements include layered backstories for its enormous cast and merges colourful fantasy sequences to deliver contagious fun. Classmate and aspiring beautician, Frenchy (Marianna Neofitou) is determined to find her footing outside of the school, but her lack of effort summons a personalised guardian angel in the form of Peter Andre. Brightening the stage with a heavenly and smoke-filled performance of Beauty School Drop Out, the mysterious maestro's double appearance as presenter Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel ensure that he takes centre stage throughout the show.
Shifting its scenery from the Burger Palace to the back alley, the musical moves rapidly with its flashy and striking performances choreographed by Arlene Phillips, coming in thick and fast. Anyone married to the original film will be frustrated with this enthusiastically constructed, heart-filled remix that boasts a high-quality cast and completely distorted production. The live shows unique reimaginings are also its shortcomings as brand-new songs performed are difficult to decipher over the powerful live band and cannot be sung along to by the audience. Also, despite Grease initially opening as a stage show in 1971, audiences are primarily only acquainted with its 1978 film, making the numerous deviations from its live plot a puzzling choice. Nevertheless, this show is so slick, that you will want to be a part of it, and despite Grease’s unforgiving portrayal of teen life, you are bound to enjoy heading back to high school for this sugar-coated slice of American pie. The jukebox collection of 70’s throwbacks are given a handful of karaoke revivals, including renditions of Greased Lightnin’ and We Go Together that necessitate audience participation when performed live. Combined with the titled classic courtesy of Frankie Valli, Grease the Musical will have you believing you were Born To Hand Jive.