DO a split, give a yell, throw a fit for old Rydell!
Grease has been the word for nigh on 40 years now and at the Playhouse this week, the latest tour of the original West End production offers a fun, if underwhelming return to 1950’s America.
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Playhouse, Greenside Place
Telling the tale of a holiday romance that unexpectedly carries on into everyday school life, Sandy and Danny’s love story has charmed generations. Thankfully, this time around, Danielle Hope saves the day bringing a lovable vulnerability to the role of Sandy, while never undermining the inner strength that lies at her core.
With a warm, rich singing voice, the Over The Rainbow winner is the stand-out performer in an otherwise anaemic production that lacks the bounce and energy of previous incarnations.
Yes, the quiffs are in place, the leather jackets of the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies iconic blousons are in place, the songs are all there too, and the seven piece band - sax, trumpet, drums, keys, guitar, bass and MD - power through them with gusto...
Yet this production fails to ignite, despite an enthusiastic audience who need no invitation to clap along and roar their approval of each musical number.
So what’s wrong? Well, The Wanted’s Tom Parker, in his theatrical debut, lacks the arrogance, swagger and strut of his predecessors. His Danny is a pouting, sulky teenager lacking presence.
If Doody, played by baby-faced Ryan Keenan, has by far the strongest singing voice of the T-Birds, his casting leaves a question: Does he attend Rydell High or Junior school - he looks so much younger than his contemporaries.
Of the Pink Ladies, Louisa Lytton captures the tragedy of Rizzo with a nicely underplayed disdain while Rosanna Harris displays natural comic timing and strong vocals as Jan.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this production, which has now been touring for a few months, is the technical shambles that accompanied opening night.
Theatre is all about creating an illusion, allowing the suspension of disbelief, that is difficult when members of the stage-crew regularly appear on stage during the action.
After some lack-lustre renditions of the old favourites You’re The One That I Want lifts the energy just in time for the obligatory mega mix, that despite all that went before had the audience on their feet.
Grease it appears, is unbreakable.