Theatre Review: Grease – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Grease 2017 UK Tour

This review was originally posted on The Reviews Hub

It’s safe to say that Grease is one of the most globally recognised and successful musicals of all time. Since its opening on Broadway in 1971, the smash-hit musical has enjoyed astounding success on Broadway and London’s West End, has toured throughout the world and has been seen by more than 12 million people in the UK alone. But after more than 40 years on the stage, is it finally time to call the school bell on this original high-school musical?

Set in the late 1950s at the fictional school of Rydell High, Grease tells the story of good girl Sandy and cool leather clad ‘greaser’ Danny, who after a summer fling, find themselves unexpectedly thrown together for their final year of school. The story follows the young teenagers and their eight friends as they navigate peer pressure, politics, growing up and young love, and is set to a score that recreates the sounds of early rock ‘n’ roll.

David Gilmore’s touring revival of his award-winning 1993 West End production is full-on in every sense of the word. From Terry Parsons flashing, stylized sets and Andreane Neofitou’s colourful costumes, to Arlene Phillips vigorous choreography and Mark Henderson’s neon lighting design, every inch of this production is an overpowering attack on the senses. Gilmore and his creative team have clearly tried to bring the ‘wow’ factor to this high-tech musical production, yet while it is visually stunning, the story and drama is seemingly pushed to one side as one big number attempts to outdo another and the charm of the original is almost lost under all the glare of the neon.

In terms of performance, the capable cast do a decent job of tackling the chart-topping songs and complex choreography. Tom Parker, formerly of UK’s boy band The Wanted, impresses in his first ever theatrical role as heart-throb Danny Zuko. Parker can clearly sing and handles the complex dance routines very well but at times, there is a lack of power behind his vocals and his young baby-face doesn’t quite fit with the ‘cool’ look his character tries to portray.

Similarly, Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope delivers an impressive vocal performance as Sandy, transforming from the wholesome virgin to the lycra-clad vamp with vigour, but again, never really seems to fully connect with Parker. In fact, the best of the performances come from supporting cast, with Louisa Lytton as Rizzo, Darren Day as Teen Angel and Tom Senior as Kenickie, all standing out.

Yet while some elements don’t come together as well as expected, there is plenty to like about this particular production, most notably the Jacobs-Casey songs including Summer Nights, You’re The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’, which greet the audience like old friends and are performed with energy and enthusiasm by the live band.

3 out of 5 stars

Runs until 25 March 2017 | Image: Paul Coltas

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