Review: Grease the musical
Since its Chicago debut in 1971, there have been several adaptations of Grease, including the 1978 box office hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Broadway revivals and countless live performances later, Grease remains an all-time classic with its timeless songs that are loved and perfectly recited by every generation.
Set in 1959, the notable storyline of protagonists Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowki, experiencing some ‘summer lovin’ before unexpectedly ending up attending the same high school, causes a lovers’ spat as the pair realise that they are from completely different worlds.
Their not-so-smooth love story is expressed through a variety of music numbers that illustrate their emotions, as well as their high school pals. It’s certainly an all rounder with something for everyone in the retro production.
A feel-good evening
Grease is one of my all-time favourite films, closely behind Dirty Dancing, having watched it more times than I can remember. So, when I heard a musical adaptation of the classic was performed at the Liverpool Empire Theatre, I was eager to watch it.
Upon arrival, I immediately noticed the feel-good feeling all round and the cheerful buzz from everyone brought more excitement.
The vintage stereo playing songs from the 50s was cleverly placed at the front of the stage, accompanied by a projected screen of what looked like films from that era.
This certainly got the audience in the mood, ready to jump into the world of Grease.
The musical made it impossible to keep still. The first act opened with the beach scene with a prologue between Sandy and Danny, before breaking into the iconic theme tune of the production ‘Grease is the word’, which brought the cast onto the stage.
The sheer buzz from the audience as the musical commenced with this song was incredible and the excitement grew as we knew there were more singalong numbers to come.
The talent across the cast was outstanding; each actor had a memorable performance.
Protagonists Danny Zuko, played by Dan Partridge, and Sandy Dumbrowki, portrayed by Ellie Kingdon, successfully plaited the characters together. Their talents truly illustrated the romantic anguish between them.
Jan, played by Maeve Byrne, had the most accurate portrayal representation of a Grease character, as she nailed the notable ‘annoyingly high-pitched’ voice.
Her bubbly and over-hyperactive personality were illustrated throughout Maeve’s performance.
Peter Andre’s performance as Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine was spot on.
He certainly showed what his voice was capable of as he successfully hit the high note during ‘Beauty School Dropout’ in the second act.
His performance as Vince Fontaine was flawless as the charming character came naturally to him.
The body language and mannerisms he used throughout the musical to portray Vince was notably accurate. Andre proved himself to be a talented performer.
Attention to detail
The attention to detail within the musical’s props was astounding and was an accurate representation of high school in the 50s.
I particularly liked the WAXXE radio station set up, which was above the stage throughout the production.
It brought the scenes together and aesthetically complimented the production.
The use of theatrical smoke was effective in conveying the emotion during Sandy’s expressive solo for ‘Hopelessly devoted to you’.
The atmospheric effect and her white dress illustrated her sorrow and purity as she sang her heart out during this music number.
The use of lighting also accurately portrayed each scene’s atmosphere; the brighter tones for the pink ladies, harsher and darker tones for the T-birds.
The ‘bad boys’ look for Danny and his crew was illustrated through their biker costumes and the dark lighting with the graffiti-stained walls.
The advanced choreography during each song number was perfected by the talents of Dame Arlene Philips.
Each performer danced in harmony and were incredibly synchronised.
A choreography that stood out for me was the provocative dance between Danny Zuko and Cha Cha (played by Alishia-Marie Blake), which saw Zuko lifting the professional dancer and was well received by the audience’s round of applause.
In terms of the storyline and the musical’s resemblance to other adaptations of Grease, it managed to keep the original plot as well as putting a new spin on it.
The music numbers were placed in a slightly different order to the film; however, the order flowed well and was in keeping with the tone of the musical and its storyline.
I noticed that there seemed to be a missing key point in the musical, during a scene where Danny and Sandy are sat in a drive in, clearly back together.
The audience had not seen them making up and a scene showing Sandy and Danny together would have helped clarify that their relationship was back on.
Despite this, the musical had a great feel to it and effectively kept the audience engaged.
The Grease musical gave us a night to remember. The scripting and musical numbers perfectly resembled the original Grease production, which was everything I hoped for and more.
All stress and worries had been left at the entrance, as the audience got a night to not take themselves so seriously, with a light-hearted boogie during the mega mix.
- Show: Grease the musical
- Location: Empire Theatre
- Date: November 16, 2021
- Time: 19:30
- Running time: 2 hours 30 Inc. interval
- Producer: Colin Ingram (Lead & Executive producer)
- Director: Nikolai Foster