Grease The Musical – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Steve Crabtree, November 2021
Today I learned that Grease the Musical came before Grease the film, the one I’ve seen a fair few times. It was first performed back in 1971 in Kingston Mines nightclub, Chicago. Despite it being around for 50 years, tonight at Leeds Grand Theatre was my first opportunity to see it.
Set in 1959 at Rydell High, we get straight in to a high-octane, lively musical following ten school pals as they face the challenges of life, love and friendship. And Grease certainly makes you want to get straight out of your seat from the off. After a short sneak peak of what happened in summer, a magnificent introduction came in the form of the first number of the night, ‘Grease is the Word’ courtesy of the entire cast. Singing and dancing wise, that was the sign of things to come. And we were quickly in to ‘Summer Nights’ not long after.
“A really good cast”
When you watch the film, you’ve got the two lead roles (Danny and Sandy), and their friends. But I found that the stage production was a bit different. Each of the Burger Palace Boys (not the T-Birds) were mostly on a level par with Danny. And the Pink Ladies seemed to have an equal measure on their bit of the story as Sandy.
And with that, we had a really good cast. Danny was played by Dan Partridge, and he was partnered by Laura-Jayne Fenney taking Sandy’s role tonight (her ‘Hoplessly Devoted To You’ was exceptional). They were flanked by Cristian Zaccarini who portrayed a strong and funny Sonny, and Paul French whose own version of Kenickie was great. I also loved Maeve Byrne’s Jan. She was hilarious, and teamed up nicely with Roger, played by Josh Barnett.
In and amongst those, the show stealer for me was Marianna Neofitou. You knew as soon as she came on to the stage that she was playing Frenchy. She’d got the character off to a tee, both in terms of mannerisms and personality.
“A lot going up on that stage”
There was some strong choreography in the show. Arlene Phillips certainly puts the cast’s energy levels to the test! There’s a lot going on up on that stage, and for everyone to hit every beat and time every move as well as they did, you have to hand it to them. The dancing at the High-School Hop was particularly impressive.
This stage version of Grease is played out in the way it was originally written. I guess you can’t help but wait for bits of the film to pop up, and sometimes they don’t quite come out the way you’re expecting. It’s maybe a tad edgier than the film version too. But, it’s a decent alternative to the Grease I guess most of us are probably used to.
The story pounds along at a nice, lively pace and the stage is kitted out so well. It’s perhaps up there with some of the best touring sets you’re likely to see. Some great neons adding even more colour that we already had, and another notable appearance was Greased-Lightnin’ – a full-sized car that more than played its part.
“A little more oompf”
Grease the Musical did come with its underwhelming moments though. When you’re expecting a bit of impact, sometimes it didn’t hit the mark. When Sandy changes her image and Danny reacts to that famous “think about it…” line it didn’t pack as much punch as you’d have liked it to. ‘You’re The One That I Want’ wasn’t the big number I’d have hoped for, and ‘We Go Together’ transformed into an end-bow so subtly I don’t think we were expecting it to happen. I just think those parts of the show deserved a little more ‘oompf’. Something a bit more electrifyin’.
That said, the Grease Megamix (that we’ve all heard in a Yorkshire nightclub before) came out before the cast left the stage, and that got most of us on our feet to sing a long and join in the dancing. It’s a good show, and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes. And many of us were still dancing as we left Leeds Grand Theatre.
Grease The Musical is running at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday, 4th December.