Is 'Grease' still the word? A Review of the Musical's UK Tour

Lewis Baird

Most of the musicals we see on Broadway and in the west end are reworked classics that continue to entertain us. And the same goes for musicals that tour. On Monday 11th September I attended Grease the Musical's press night at The Edinburgh Playhouse. This musical is iconic and nearly everyone knows the love story of Danny and Sandy. However, this musical has toured for years therefore in 2017, is it still entertaining the masses?

This classic musical begins with Vince Fontaine making a speak on the radio, then the overture kicks in. This musical instantly shows a unique moment, as the top half of the backdrop opens, the stage lights flash on, to reveal the orchestra, the musical director is bopping away and introduces each member of the band by pointing at them for a solo while continuing the overture. This I thought was a different opening to the usual orchestra being hidden and playing the overture from the band pit. It was a nice touch. Then after Danny and Sandy singing the opening musical number Sandy, the next number, Grease is the word, BLASTS into the newly refurbished auditorium and the audience even got excited, so they screamed. It actually was pretty exciting to hear this music live, sang pretty well with the iconic characters appearing like out of a dream.

One of the most memorable moments for me is the musical number, Greased Lightnin', I am not over exaggerating here when I say this is the best I have seen and heard it performed. The lighting, music, set, car and performers were all on point in this scene. The stage effects of the car backfiring, the strobe lighting and sparks was visually brilliant, it almost seemed like a scene from We Will Rock You. I really loved it, it seemed fresh and different to how it has been done before which absolutely is vital. There was only one thing that let that scene down, the set from the previous bedroom scene was still sticking out and the stage crew were not subtle that they were struggling, even walking on stage at some points. Obviously, there was an issue therefore it was totally out of their hands, so I tried to forget about that.

Act two opened with the ball, hosted by Vince Fontaine, loads of nice moments with great dancing and singing. Some points the energy fell a little flat however it recovered as George Olney powered ahead as Vince, singing another well-known number, Born to hand jive. George is portrayed a very upbeat and funny Vince Fontaine, he then moved onto portraying Teen Angel, in Beauty School Dropout. Which seemed almost identical to the scene within the motion picture but much more colourful but there was familiarity there. Which worked for this scene, not everything needed freshening up, some of this musical is timeless however there has been changes made to the necessary songs. For instance, within the Sandy reprise, which takes place at the cinema drive in, I found that there was much more colour and humour presented from Danny and that the scene actually, worked better. Therefore, even though necessarily the music is the same, they have re-worked the scene to make it more interesting.

Also, director, David Gilmore, even emphasised a highly underrated story within the movie, that was the relationship of Frenchy and Doody (T-Bird), I thought it was a nice touch with loads of laughs generated with Doody's nervousness. Ryan Keenan not only played the humour well as Doody, he also sang brilliantly and brought a certain presence to the stage.

Louisa Lytton played the tough, sassy Rizzo we all loved, and there were some very good moments where we see cracks in her hard exterior especially just before There are worse things I could do. Tom Parker, who used to be a member of boyband The Wanted, played Danny, his singing was good mostly throughout, there were some moments it dropped, however over all it was a very strong performance with a strong characterisation of Danny, much like the way John Travolta played him all those years ago, however I would even say there was more energy.

And last but definitely not least Danielle Hope gave us a very unique performance of Sandra Dee, where we understand the character, rather than finding her slightly irritating like previous portrayals. She is stronger than we have ever seen her, and the character's journey is clear, there is a beautiful moment, where in the Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee reprise, we see her progress at the end into the iconic bad ass Sandy we see at the end of the musical.

Grease is a musical which is done time and time again, it is constantly touring, there was even the recent live production. However, do we ever get sick of this love story about the T-Bird and the new addition to the pink ladies? No. And if it's told well then, you're pretty much going to fall in love with it all over again. This UK touring production of the hit musical is brilliant! While there are still some minor technical flaws, the production is definitely automatic, systematic and hydromatic. I rate it 4/5 stars. This classic musical is born again in the hands of a talented cast and clever creative team. Grease is definitely still the word.