Grease – Review – York Theatre Royal

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By Kirsty Reid, February 2019

It has been more than four decades since the release of the movie musical starring John Travolta and Olivia-Newton John, yet Grease is still very much the word. Having never seen a stage version of the high school musical, I was curious as to whether one could be as electrifying as the film. So, after dusting off my leather jacket, I attended York Light’s opening night at York Theatre Royal.

We all know the story, right? Sweet, innocent Sandy (played here by Sarah Craggs) and leatherclad Danny (James Horsman) navigate the stormy waters of teenage crushes and peer pressure.

Grease originally premiered as a play in 1971 where it was seen by producers Ken Waissman and Maxine Fox who felt it might work better as a musical. The show soon moved to Broadway, before becoming a West End hit. Since then it has been performed by theatre companies across the globe and, in 1978, was transformed into the hugely successful film.

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While the show’s main message – if you want a man, you’ll need to put out – might not sit right in modern society, it is the production’s infectious rock’n’roll spirit that has fans hopelessly devoted and it’s easy to see why.

Within minutes of the show starting I found myself transported to Fifties Rydell High, where the energetic cast, sporting slick hair and party skirts, delivered a pitch-perfect rendition of ‘Grease Is The Word’ and set the tone for the rest of the show.

Though inexperience of the freshmen was apparent at times, the energy of the performances didn’t once falter and the audience seemed to lap up every moment of it – there was even a little, albeit uninvited, audience participation.

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“Great on-stage chemistry”

A simple, yet effective, set allowed for swift changes between scenes. The costumes and hairstyles were a true representation of the time and what helped bring this timeless classic to life.

Craggs and Horsman were fantastic in their leading roles. The real-life couple have great on-stage chemistry paired with strong vocals – each complementary of their movie counterparts. A particular highlight of mine was Craggs’ heartfelt delivery of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’.

The show is certainly fun. The feelgood rockin’ and rollin’ vibes are what makes the stage adaptation, in my opinion, more enjoyable than the film. Finn East (Roger) and Fiona Baistow (Jan) were comically brilliant and kept the audience entertained – especially with their ‘Mooning’ duet, though I wasn’t quite expecting to see East’s bare behind.

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“Precision choreography”

Other highlights amongst the cast include Jack Armstrong as Kenickie, whose rendition of ‘Greased Lightnin” was toe-tappingly captivating. Emma-Louise Dickinson’s portrayal of tart-tongued Rizzo brought real sass to the show, while her solo performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ showed off her impressive vocal talent.

This stage production might not follow the film exactly, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Filled with feelgood classics including ‘Summer Nights’, ‘Beauty School Dropout’ and ‘You’re The One That I Want’, York Light’s production is brilliant to say the least. But, of course, none of this would be possible without a fabulous production team – from Martyn Knight’s precision choreography to John Atkin’s musical direction.


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