REVIEW: Grease The Musical (Sunderland Empire) ★★★

Grease Sunderland Empire

Grease was the word at Sunderland Empire for this new tour of the classic Grease The Musical.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the one that I wanted. I’m not sure if it was the grey Bank Holiday weather, touring tiredness or just a general lethargy but this show, apart from some stand out moments, felt a bit flat. Maybe it was the addition of star names who weren’t up for the challenge that didn’t help but they seemed to be going through the motions of performing rather than giving the show the energy and passion it needed.

Tom Parker, formerly of The Wanted, tries to impress in his first theatrical role as heart-throb Danny Zuko. Clearly he can sing and handles the complex dance routines very well but at times, there is a lack of power behind his vocals. Ex-Eastenders star Louisa Lytton is wise-cracking Queen of the Pink Ladies, Rizzo. In the second act she really unleashes Rizzo’s fierceness, but character’s big song, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, lacked passion. Compare this to the flawless performance of Danielle Hope as Sandy – her rendition of Hopelessly Devoted to You was nothing less than phenomenal. Mentions must also go to the terrific T-Birds Michael Cortez (Kenickie), Ryan Keenan (Doody), Oliver Jacobson (Roger), Grant Thresh (Sonny) and the incredible Pink Ladies Rhiannon Chesterman (Frenchy), and Marty (Lauren Atkins), and Jan (Rosanna Harris), who carried their struggling main counterparts through the show. The young ensemble are the definite stars.

Yet while some elements don’t come together as well as expected, there is plenty to like about this particular production, most notably the Jacobs-Casey songs including Summer Nights, You’re The One That I Want, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’, which greet the audience like old friends. And although the show got off to a slow start, Doody thrust the show into high Rock ‘n’ Roll gear with his spectacular performance of ‘Those Magic Changes’. The surprise hit of the night

Some things were good. Terry Parsons flashing, stylized sets and Andreane Neofitou’s colourful costumes were excellent, Arlene Phillips vigorous choreography was incredible and the band – positioned above at the rear of the stage under Griff Johnson’s musical direction – were truly fabulous

Ultimately though, even the faultless set, music, and choreography were eclipsed by Parker and Lytton’s painstakingly obvious inexperience on the stage. Despite the sheer talent of the insatiable Danielle Hope and supporting cast. However it is still relatively early on in the tour

and given time I’m hopeful all the pieces will come together – and with some on the job learning – the potential is there for a first class production.

Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes
Photo: Paul Coltas