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Hopelessly devoted to Grease

Grease is the word and the word is this is one of the most feel good shows you will ever see. The well-known film starring John Travolta as Danny and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy has seen a generation grown up on Pink Ladies and T-birds. Tonight’s audience reflected this with a diversity of ages and many in the audience dressed up.

Grease is the story of Danny who falls in love with Sandy during the summer. The last thing either of them expect is to be at the same high school and as Danny has a certain cool reputation to keep he is not sure how to react when he realises straight-laced Sandy is at the same school.

This show has so much energy and the dance numbers are beautifully choreographed and vibrant. The show opens to an overture by the band who are up the back of the stage and really rock the joint. The audience are ready to rock. We then see Danny and Sandy either side of the stage in an almost Romeo and Juliet stance, singing a glimpse of Sandy which loses a bit of pace. We are then launched into the Grease number and this is an amazing energetic number and should rightfully be the true start to the show.

Danny is played by The Wanted star, Tom Parker. This is Tom’s musical theatre debut and Tom certainly gives the role his all. He has a great accent and the swagger attitude of Danny. He is charming and cool and the combing his hair and then throwing it into the audience cemented his epitome of cool. He is the Danny Zuko of this generation. However, the discipline of musical theatre is different to being a singer in a band and he struggled in places on the solos. This may just be a lack of confidence and as he undertakes more musical theatre roles this could change.

Sandy is played by the very talented Danielle Hope. She is known as winning the role of Dorothy in Over The Rainbow and has a lovely singing voice. Danielle’s solos – and especially the Sandra Dee reprise knocked it out of the ball park – she is amazing. However, she reigned it in a bit for the duets which is a shame as she certainly has the skills. And can someone get her a better wig please?!

Louisa Lytton plays Rizzo. Rizzo is the leader of the pink ladies and Rizzo has a hard exterior with a heart of gold underneath. Rizzo is sassy and punchy and although Louisa gave this she could turn up the volume even further on that sassiness that Rizzo oozes. The other pink ladies are Frenchy, played by Rhiannon Chesterman, Marty played by Lauren Atkins and Jan played by Rosanna Harris. They were all played brilliantly and I especially enjoyed their character definition of each role. Rosanna Harris gave a really great performance of Jan, adding humour and wit to the role.

The T-Birds were also full of characters. Kenickie was played by Tom Senior, Sonny was played by Michael Cortez, Roger was played by Oliver Jacobson and Doody was played by Ryan Keenan. They certainly give the idea of what they think it is like to be a cool teenager (although some of it feels childish to the adult mind). Ryan Keenan gives a great performance with trying to learn guitar and then plays it beautifully for a solo number.

To support the main characters, there are supporting performers who also deserve a mention. Gabriella Williams gives a flawless performance as top cheerleader Patty and Cha Cha (the dancer at the prom) is played by Natasha Mould who gives flirting a new name as she dances and shakes it at the prom. There is no doubt this girl can dance and she really deserves to win that trophy. George Olney plays both Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel. He certainly rocked his inner Elvis and the Beauty School Dropout number was beautifully performed.

The show features all the songs you would expect, Summer Lovin’, Grease, You’re The One That I Want and Hopelessly Devoted To You. We Go Together is an outstanding set piece of the show but the director has put it as the finale to act one rather than leave it at the end of act two. My opinion is that when something is as much loved as Grease, you do not play around with the order of the numbers in this way. The end of act two gives us a medley of all our favourites which is certainly aimed at getting the audience on their feet.

The dance numbers are awesome and really well performed by the cast giving an all-round performance. It was a shame there were so many ‘Blackouts’ in between set changes as it stopped the story telling and flow of the show. Surely some of this could be using the front of the stage better than leaving the audience in darkness and waiting for the next scene to start. However, I am being very picky as this is a show very close to my heart. Grease was the first film I ever saw without my parents supervising and its impact from 1978 still resonates with me today. I love Grease dearly and this show is fantastic. A real feel good, sing-a-long show which cannot fail to impress.

Grease is the word and you know it’s the one that you want, so get over to Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2 September 2017.

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