The likeness to the film is uncanny – adults masquerading as teenagers, casually draped over scaffolding and lounging on school steps; the characters themselves, plucked from the screen and plonked on the stage; even the scripting and choreography is disorientating, leading to an overall fever dream-like experience. And yet, despite lacking originality, this production fails to reach the heights of the film, with some moments falling flat instead – having nothing new to present the audience sadly means there is little excitement to offer too.
Theatre is a platform to reinvent, to reimagine. There is no limit to the changes you can add to an established production: you can change the era; change the dialogue; add a twist to the narrative that brings it more in line with the modern day. Whilst Grease is an established classic and a box-office hit (as well as a personal favourite of mine), it is nevertheless disappointing to see Nikolai Foster’s production emphasise the story through an out-of-date lens. Where the stage version departs from the film is in its loss of the narrative’s nuance. What you see at the Dominion is not a stand-off between Danny and Sandy, where each makes their own sacrifices and each teases the other in equal measure. Instead, we are presented with a particularly lack-lustre Sandy and a Danny who is wholly unlikeable – there are very few redeeming features to either character. Their relationship is not developed in a way that makes the ending believable and, whilst I doubt there is anyone that will see Grease The Musical who does not know the story, if there were I would wager they would be confused.
Plot holes and originality aside, the talent on stage cannot be faulted. In a story that relies on the dynamic of relationships, there is great rapport between The Burger Boys and The Pink Ladies, with Mary Moore’s Jan and Jake Reynold’s Doody giving an exceptionally funny rendition of ‘Mooning’. Jocasta Almgill’s ‘There are Worse Things I Could Do’ is hard-hitting and Olivia Moore’s ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ is simply stunning. The Burger Boys give similarly strong performances, with not a weak link between them. Vocally, this is a very strong cast and it is a pleasure to watch such an iconic soundtrack be performed live.
A stunt cast is not something I usually enjoy, but credit has to be given to Peter Andre for his unreserved commitment to the role. Whether this is one hundred percent effective is another matter but when on stage, he is certainly entertaining. He carries off the old school crooner excellently and interprets the character of Vince Fontaine as though he were a pantomime dame.
The set design (by Colin Richmond) is simple, with certain features staying on stage throughout giving the story a sense of continuity. The scene transitions are, ironically, noticeably seamless, giving the whole production a professional finish. To fill the whole stage of the Dominion is no mean feat and Arlene Phillips’ choreography does this brilliantly; at no point does this production risk being swallowed up by the vast Dominion Theatre.
Likely not an award-winner, but Grease The Musical is nevertheless a fun way to spend a summer night in London.
- Directed by Nikolai Foster
- Books, music & lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
- Choreographed by Arlene Phillips
- Cast includes: Dan Partridge, Olivia Moore, Jocasta Almgill, Paul French, Peter Andre, Jake Reynolds, Damon Gould, Eloise Davies, Mary Moore, Lizzie-Rose Esin-Kelly and Jessica Croll
- Dominion Theatre
- Until 29th October 2022
- Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including interval)