Grease is the word on everybody’s lips… or at least mine, anyway. I had the pleasure of going along to watch Grease The Musical at the New Theatre in Oxford on Tuesday night, as it kicks off a UK tour with a dazzling cast of familiar faces.
Grease is my all-time favourite musical, so you can imagine my excitement as the invite came through to my inbox to review the touring production. Since I was a little girl, I’ve spent many hours dancing around the house whilst playing the soundtrack as loud as I possibly could (partly to drown out my awful singing). It’s so iconic that the thought of anyone else playing these famous characters and doing it justice is no mean feat – but *spoiler* I loved it .
After collecting our tickets and a cheeky glass of vino from the Piano Bar downstairs (a must visit if you want a pre-show or interval drink), we followed the crowds into the theatre and found our seats*. I’ve seen many performances at the New Theatre, including Top Hat and Sister Act (which FYI is returning in a few weeks) and every production is as good as the last – but this time, we were heading to Rydell High for one night only…
Taking the lead role of Danny in his debut theatrical role is Tom Parker (The Wanted), starring alongside Danielle Hope (Over the Rainbow) as Sandy, Louisa Lytton (Eastenders/Strictly Come Dancing) as Rizzo, and Darren Day (Celebrity Big Brother) as the Teen Angel/Vince Fontaine.
With Tom being a boyband heartthrob and all that he already fits into the role quite well, but I was still unsure if he was going to possess the charm needed to play Danny (famously played by John Travolta who oozed coolness!) I was pleasantly surprised at how good and funny he was, especially as I’ve never seen him act before. Danielle, who plays Sandy, has already carved a successful career in the West End since winning Andrew Lloyd Webber’s talent show Over The Rainbow seven years ago and clearly had no trouble playing the Aussie wallflower in this production. Louisa Lytton was fantastic as Rizzo – sassy and sarcastic – and as you would expect, her dancing was incredible. I practically spent the entire show trying not to leap up into song and dance…
Now I must warn you, if you’re expecting the stage version to be exactly the same as the movie – you’d be mistaken.
Grease The Musical still mimics the film almost to a tee but scenes are in slightly different places and music isn’t quite in the same order as the original, which I assume could be down to copyright reasons and set limitations. It confused me initially, but then I found myself enjoying the changes and almost saw the film in a new light.
The actors playing the T-Birds are fantastic and really hold their own on stage alongside the Pink Ladies (girl squad goals), and for me stole the show – who would’a thought, it’s not ALL about Danny and Sandy! Despite the core cast being well-known, they didn’t take away any of the spotlight from the other characters. In fact, I could almost see the actors who played Kenickie and Marty (Tom Senior and Lauren Atkins) playing Danny and Sandy, as their performances were so strong.
Did you know…
- John Travolta starred in the touring production of Grease when he was 17, not as Danny but as Doody!
- There are 140 costume changes in the show, and over 700 white T-shirts washed each month
- It comes as no surprise that Grease was voted ‘the No1 Greatest Musical of All Time’ in 2003 by Channel 4 in their 100 Greatest Musicals chart.
Darren Day was a great choice for the roles of the Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine, and clearly very popular with the audience too! Returning to the musical 18 years after playing Danny himself, Darren seems to be a true professional on stage and will no doubt be a great mentor to Tom in his debut role. He was particularly brilliant as the Teen Angel, as the emphasis is all on him whilst Frenchy watches on in a daze.
There were some scenes, like the diner and fairground, that were highly missed in the production for me as they are such prominent and recognisable moments. The relationship between Danny and Sandy didn’t seem as strong as in the movie, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. It almost feels like you’re watching it for the first time, falling in love with these characters again for different reasons. T-Birds Sonny and Roger were my favourite in this production, even if I wasn’t sure why they didn’t call him Putzie – who on earth is Roger?! We had a chuckle about that all the way home, is that what his full name is in the original? Tell me in the comments!
I expected a fun show with a great cast and it surpassed that. I laughed a lot more than I expected to, particularly at the ‘shower scene’, and came away loving Grease even more. If you need to find me, I’m off to join the Pink Ladies…
Grease The Musical is currently on tour at the Oxford New Theatre until Saturday night, so hurry and get your tickets before you miss it! Click here to purchase tickets and to see all tour dates and venues.