REVIEW: GREASE (Curve, Leicester) ★★★★

Director Nikolai Foster delivers once again with this fantastic, rambunctious performance of Grease, which takes the iconic film and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. With harmonies that’ll give you goosebumps and tunes that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks, this is definitely a production to bring the whole family to.

This isn’t a run of the mill, scene by scene copy of the film, in fact this production is based on the script that existed long before Olivia Newton John could even say “Summer Lovin”.

However, the key aspects of the story remain the same. We meet good girl Sandy and bad boy Danny following a summer spent falling in love at the beach on their summer vacation. Their romance is made ever more complex with the sound of the school bell, when high school drama and peer pressure get in the way. We’re introduced to their high school pals who each bring an element of comedy and drama with them, and one by one they all hand-jive and step-ball-change their way into new found romances until, before they know it, it’s time for summer break all over again.

Some songs are in different places, and large scenes you’ll remember from the film have been lost entirely, such as the drag race scene. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the placement in the film makes slightly more sense. Far less is made of Sandy and Danny’s storyline in this production, with them only appearing in a handful of scenes together and whole conversations and decisions happening off stage. Without Sandy and Danny’s love holding the plot together quite as much, it does feel lacking in substance somewhat.

I adored the casting and I love how fresh and young this cast is. Martha Kirby makes her debut professional performance as Sandy, and she certainly makes an impact. We can wave farewell to the sickly sweet, butter-won’t-melt Sandra Dee that we all know (and love). Martha’s Sandy is less naive and far grittier and more determined. I can’t decide whether it makes her iconic transformation at the end make more or less sense, but what sense did that transformation really ever make in the first place? Martha did a cracking job in the role, and her stage presence is palpable. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

Dan Partridge was our leading man, Danny Zuko. He doesn’t necessarily shake up the role quite as much as Martha did (which isn’t a bad thing – no one likes too much change), but he definitely would have made John Travolta proud. He really holds his own and has great vocals to match a solid performance.

It was Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky who stole the show for me as Rizzo. Delivering the perfect mix of vulnerability and feistiness that Rizzo is known for, she absolutely shone, and her performance of There Are Worst Things I Could Do didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Louise Gaunt was a powerful Kenickie, Tara Sweeting had great comedy timing and showed off some really impressive vocals as Marty. Jordan Abey, Ryan Anderson and Damian Buhagiar were impressive in the roles of Doody, Roger and Sonny. Elouise Davies’ portrayal of Frenchie was particularly noteworthy as she reminded me of a young Sheridan Smith.

This is the ultimate feel-good, toe-tapping extravaganza and one that’s definitely worth catching while it’s in town. You might even say, it’s electrifying…

Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
Photo: Manuel Harlan

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