Paul Johnson | 03 Sep 2012 22:57pm
2012 marks the 40th anniversary since Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s original ‘high school musical’ first came to the stage. Six years later, in 1978, following successful Broadway and West End runs (starring up-and-coming performers such as Richard Gere, Paul Nicholas and Elaine Paige) the 50s feel-good toe-tapper was launched into the musical stratosphere with the smash-hit 1978 film version featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. School kids from all over the world (yes, including me! sigh) went Grease crazy sending hit after hit to the top of the music charts. All the boys wanted to be Danny and every teenage girl in the country was Sandy. Grease had cemented its place in the record and history books. But it doesn’t stop there. Despite the film consistently remaining one of the favourite musicals of all-time, fourteen years later in 1992 a brand-new theatrical production from the Paul Nicholas stable opened – and twenty years later after tirelessly touring the UK interspersed with intermittent West End runs it’s still going strong! Grease is not only the word, it’s a timeless wonder. This is, of course, a bit of a shame for amateur groups who would love to put this show into their programmes. The show has always been popular with young teenagers and their families, as was evident from the audience at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre this week. However, it doesn’t take long before you soon see parents sharing awkward glances with each other at the adult-themed dialogue on display. Mind you, the uncensored movie didn’t actually hold back either! isn’t it amazing how several catchy tunes can cloud your perception of what’s going on before your eyes. These days, with political correctness high on the agenda, you’ll be lucky to catch the televised movie being screened without quite a few lines and songs being cut first (Greased Lightning usually loses a whole verse in the process). I must say the show’s structure has hardly changed at all since I last saw it twice in the last fifteen years. Arlene Phillips’ choreography is still funny and slick, Andreane Neofitou’s costumes remain colourful and vibrant and Terry Parsons simple sets work as well as ever. Barney Ashworth’s musical direction was faultless and his band punched out the best sound I’ve heard yet from this show, mounted high on their upstage platform. Almost by way of tradition, the role of Danny Zuko is usually played out in something of a send-up of John Travolta’s camp-is-cool movie portrayal, and Danny Bayne (winner of ITV’s Grease is the Word reality TV show) didn’t disappoint. Bayne has returned to the role on numerous occasions throughout the past decade and is obviously at home playing the T-Birds’ super-cool leader. Carina Gillespie, as Sandy, gave an outstanding performance boasting a well-suited vocal and girl-next-door persona, while Kate Somerset How was equally brilliant as tough-girl Rizzo. However, I cannot say I enjoyed the ‘cameo’ performance of ‘Strictly-popular’ Russell Grant as Frenchy’s dreamboat, Teen Angel. This was a purely ‘bums-on-seats’ casting at the expense of the show’s integrity. For me, Grant not only managed to ruin the Beauty School Dropout number with his inability to sing or dance but added insult to artistic injury in the finale by shouting out “love you Dartford!” in true panto style. Ex-X-Factor finalist and wonderfully flamboyant Rydian Roberts – the show’s regular and Teen Angel, who really can sing – must be grinding his teeth. Apart from Mr Grant’s unfortunate appearance, generally all seems to be well at Rydell High although there were one or two moments when I suspected some of the cast were going through the motions a little. Not that they weren’t slick and professional in performance; the show’s pace was like greased lightning. But for pure onstage chemistry, which makes everything tick at the end of the day, I think the current company may have been edged off the medal podium by some of their predecessors.
- : admin
- : 27/08/2012