4 August 2021
For the second time in a week it has been an utter pleasure to see the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, with a packed and enthusiastic house. After the last 18 months it is something that had become an almost alien concept. Throughout the pandemic TRP has done all in its powers to keep the theatre open and provide something for audiences to take them into a world away from the pressures of lockdown, illness, furlough and isolation – I hope that the return of huge audiences is a response to their hard work.
As with SIX recently, GREASE is going to be a real audience pleaser. First performed in 1971 it was made into an enormously successful film in 1978 – the result has been many different versions of the show and the edges have somewhat been blurred between what was in the original stage musical and what was added from the film.
I haven’t seen GREASE for many years – it is a simple piece of work with a virtually non-existent plot and by today’s standards of shows about teen culture, can be considered tame. It is reliant on its songs, choreography and tongue-in-cheek performances.
Nikolai Foster’s production for the Leicester Curve is choreographed by Arlene Philips and has an excellent design from Colin Richmond – an adaptable and fluidly movable set. Dan Partridge plays Danny Zuko with a certain amount swagger, but maybe not enough charisma to really engage with the audience. An unfortunate accident to Georgia Louise, just prior to the start of the show thrust Laura-Jane Fenney into the central role of Sandy – some obvious nerves were overcome and a very creditable performance resulted. There was particularly good work from Josh Barnett as Roger, Marianna Neofitou as Frenchy, Maeve Byrne as Jan and Cristian Zaccarini as Sonny – all threw themselves into their roles whereas I felt some other characterisations were a little under-baked; something which was highlighted by the performance of Peter Andre as DJ, Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel. Andre completely steals the show with a terrific performance – high in camp and full of energy – he is ideal in both roles; worth the ticket price alone.
It is always a risk to re-choreograph iconic dance moves, but it is a risk Dame Arlene Philips takes – most noticeably with ‘Greased Lightning’ – I was aware of the audience aching to join in, only to be knocked off guard by the new version. Dances were high energy and fun with ‘Born To Hand Jive’ particularly effective with the band providing enthusiastic and solid accompaniment.
There were issues with the sound. A surprising number of late fade-ups on microphones, some of which appeared not to function properly at all, particularly in the first half. This is not something expected from a professional company.
Grease is not a great show, but it is undeniably fun. Throughout there just seemed to be something missing in this production. It needed more verve, more oomph and maybe more cheese – thank goodness for Mr Andre who delivered these qualities in spades – I hope it spreads throughout the company.
CAST AND CREATIVES
|Danny Zuko||Dan Partridge|
|Sandy Dumbrowki||Laura-Jane Fenney|
|Betty Rizzo||Tendai Rinomhota|
|Teen Angel/Vince Fontaine||Peter Andre|
|Patty Simcox/Ensemble||Hannah Faith Marram|
|Miss Lynch||Corinna Powlesland|
|Cha Cha/Ensemble||Alishia-Marie Blake|
|Johnny Casino/Ensemble||Jacob Fisher|
|Male Ensemble||Elliot Gooch|
|Male Ensemble||Dom Hutcheson|
|Male Ensemble||Haroun al Jeddal|
|Female Ensemble||Hannah-Faith Marram|
|Female Ensemble||Kalisha Johnson|
|Male Swing + Dance Captain||Kevin O’Dwyer|
|Male Swing||Jacob Young|
|Officer Mailie||Richard Linford|
WRITERS – JIM JACOBS & WARREN CASEY
DIRECTOR – NIKOLAI FOSTER
CHOREOGRAPHY – ARLENE PHILIPS
DESIGN – COLIN RICHMOND
LIGHTING DESIGN – BEN CRACKNELL