I’m moving to Paris in January and so on a recent visit to look for somewhere to live, I decided it was probably time to go and see my first ever French production of a Musical. And what better way to kick things off than with Grease le Musical!
Grease the Musical first premiered in America in 1971, six years before it was adapted to the silver screen in the film that we all know and love starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta. It tells the story of ten high school students and the difficulties that young people go through with peer pressure, first loves and self acceptance. The story centres around Danny and Sandy, two young lovers who spent a whirlwind summer together, thinking they would never see each other again but end up at the same school. Danny tries to protect his reputation with his friends and denies knowing Sandy which understandably hurts her feelings but she is too nice and plain for him to gain any credibility with as a girlfriend. The show ends (as we all know) with Sandy transforming herself into the sexy, PVC clad bad girl that Danny has always dreamed of and the two can finally be together. Not really the ideal message to be sending out to young people but everyone seems to gloss over that fact that a girl changes who she is to win the love of a man.
The set design is nice, although a little wobbly and could perhaps have been better designed for a production of this scale. What really works with this production is the slick choreography and dance routines. The ensemble dancers are clearing loving life during the songs and are a joy to watch (especially Alexander Wood and Nordine Ezzahr).
Emmanuelle Nzuzi is phenomenal as Rizzo. She could shoot a man down with just one look and gives a sass-filled performance. Astou Malva Gueye also stands out as the adorable Jan, bringing a lesser role to the forefront of the production. Alexis Loizon clearly resembles John Travola as Danny Zuko but struggles vocally with some of his bigger solo numbers. Alyzee Lalande does a good job as Sandy but I feel there was so much depth to the role left un-investigated and it felt like a fairly safe performance.
Performed in French, with songs in a mixture of French and English, it is fun to watch although the constant change between languages in different lines of songs was surreal and a little disorientating at times! Surtitles with English translations are displayed on screens in the auditorium but if you are sitting in the front ten rows or so then you probably won’t be able to see them.
Grease le Musical was a great introduction to French theatre and a thoroughly enjoyable night out.
Reviewed by West End Wilma