Theatre Review: GREASE – Opera House, Manchester

Nikolai Foster latest touring production of GREASE brings a fresh, contemporary edge to the cult classic, paying homage to the original stage production. 

4 out of 5 stars

Considering the worldwide success of the 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, it’s easy to forget that GREASE started life on stage in Chicago seven years earlier.

Yet Nikolai Foster’s new touring production proves that there’s much to love about the original, stripping this cult musical back to its source material without losing any of the film’s appeal.

Set in the summer of 1959, GREASE follows good girl Sandy, who is unexpectedly reunited with her summer romance – leather-clad greaser Danny – when she transfers to Rydell High for senior year.

As the pair navigate their way through high school, can they survive the trials and tribulations of teenage life and find true love once more?

Paying homage to the original, Foster’s new touring production of GREASE brings a fresh, contemporary edge to the cult classic. 

Colin Richmond’s clever and versatile set and costume design is a visual delight, bringing to life the 1950s high school and allowing the action to move swiftly between the school gym, the diner and the vast dance hall.

Arlene Phillips’ choreography is equally spellbinding, honouring the era’s style and bringing out the best in the performers with ensemble numbers like GREASED LIGHTIN’ and WE GO TOGETHER.

As Danny Zuko, Dan Partridge captures the jokey façade of the character but avoids hamming it up, being a fresh interpretation to the role instead of directly impersonating Travolta.

His chemistry with Ellie Kingdon, as Sandy is well-matched, and it’s a shame that the pair don’t have more scenes together.

In her professional debut, Kingdon proves that she has real star power, her vocal performance of HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU standing out as one of the show’s highlights.

But it is Peter Andre who gets the biggest reaction from the audience, as both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine.

Schmoozing his way to the front of the stage in leopard print satin, Andre piles on the cheese as he thrusts and struts his way through the crowd but also holds his own in the vocal numbers.

Of course, if you’re here to see a repeat version of the film, you may be disappointed. At times, the production veers away from recognisable ground, with a few chops and changes along the way and the inclusion of some lesser-known musical numbers.

But don’t let that put you off, as the classics are still here, including SUMMER NIGHTS, GREASED LIGHTIN’, HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU and YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT, all beautifully arranged by musical supervisor Sarah Travis.

With its modern kick, fresh young cast and stunning staging, this golden anniversary production of GREASE is sure to inspire a new generation of fans.

GREASE runs at the Opera House, Manchester, until 23 October 2021.