Image by Paul Coltas
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday 25th March, 2017
Originally produced in the West End by Paul Nicholas, David Ian and Robert Stigwood, director David Gilmore’s hugely-successful 1993 London revival production is back on the road after a fairly significant break, though despite many positives, and some standout performances, it never quite matches the energetic spectacle of previous years.
As one of the most famous and beloved, feel-good musicals in the theatrical canon, Grease is hardly a show that requires headline names to succeed, though unfortunately it is yet another major production to succumb to the tiresome gimmick of stunt casting, and that is where it falls short.
Top-billed Tom Parker (former member of The Wanted) appears out of his depth in the iconic role of Danny, lacking the charisma and general stagecraft of many of his colleagues, and generally looking uncomfortable in the unfamiliar theatrical setting.
Former Eastenders actress Louisa Lytton is more successful in her overall interpretation of Rizzo, though struggles vocally in some of the more demanding moments.
Perhaps unsurprisingly however, it is Parker’s equally-billed co-star Danielle Hope who is the real star of the show as the naive, good-girl-turned-rebel, Sandy Dumbrowski. A flawless American accent, gorgeous vocals and brilliant characterisation, she elevates the production whenever she steps on stage; a radiant star in a faultless performance.
Supporting performances are excellent, from Tom Senior (Kenickie), Oliver Jacobson (Roger), Ryan Heenan (Doody) and Michael Cortez’s (Sonny) T-Birds, Rosanna Harris (Jan), Lauren Atkins (Marty) and Rhiannon Chesterman’s (Frenchy) Pink Ladies, and a knock-out triple-threat ensemble make easy work of Arlene Phillips’ joyous choreography. Callum Evans and Gabriella Williams also deserve recognition for their portrayals of Eugene and Patty.
Aside from Hope’s Sandy, it is in the big ensemble production numbers that the show really excels, and Greased Lightnin’, We Go Together and You’re The One That I Want are all particular stand-outs.
A charismatic Darren Day is on good vocal form in the dual roles of Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine, though the Austin Powers and The Mask ad-libs in Beauty School Dropout are completely unnecessary and verge towards fourth-wall breaking pantomime territory.
Bathed in neon, Terry Parson’s familiar set design is simple, though very effective, and does a great job in structuring the action with its stage-filling postcard-style framework.
Led by Musical Director Griff Johnson, and Assistant MD, Josh Sood, the 7-strong on-stage band are outstanding, and give an exceptional rendition of Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey and John Farrar’s great feel-good score.
Some leniency can be given for the fact that this is the very first date on an extensive new UK tour (taking them right through to 31st December, 2017) as the show never runs as slick and smooth as might be expected, though is to be hoped that the full cast settle into their roles and the production soon.
Running Time: 2 hours and 20-minutes (approx.) (including one 20-minute interval)
Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 25th March, 2017
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.