Grease: The Musical Sunderland Empire
This feel-good show is one of the best known musicals around, thanks mainly to the film version that celebrates its 40th birthday next year.
But that enduring and entertaining movie, filled with memorable performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, will always draw comparisons and leave very big blue suede shoes to fill.
On paper, this award-winning production promised to deliver – Tom Parker from boy band The Wanted took the role as Danny, while Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope stepped into Sandy’s shoes and Eastenders’ actress Louisa Lytton played Rizzo.
And from the minute the curtain went up, it was clear that this was going to be a visually spectacular version of 1950s teen love, cliques and peer pressure – with 140 costume changes (involving 59 wigs) and numerous sets to recreate the Rydell High School vibe.
Collectively the cast also succeeded in filling the Empire with the explosive energy of the vibrant 1950s, aided by a succession of high octane memorable tunes from Grease Is The Word and Summer Nights to We Go Together and You’re The One That I Want.
But it was the individual performances of Tom Parker (Danny) and Louisa Lytton (Rizzo) that failed to shine on the stage.
While no newcomer to the stage as such, Parker seemed awkward in his shift from boy-band member to musical show star and struggled to emulate the singing prowess and sheer presence that Travolta brought to the film role while his American accent wavered from Californian college boy to a more southerly drawl at times.
Likewise Louisa Lytton appeared somewhat daunted by the edgy stiletto-spiked shoes she had to fill for the role of Rizzo, particularly so in her somewhat rushed and pedestrian rendition of There Are Worse Things I Could Do, which lacked the passion so well delivered in the movie version.
Danielle Hope (Sandy) fared better, particularly on the vocals front. Her pitch-perfect rendition of Hopelessly Devoted To You was a highlight of the production, while she helped to add polish to Parker in Summer Nights.
Ultimately the show did not get anywhere near eclipsing the power of the movie version but to be fair that did not dampen the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the packed audience, made up of pensioners through to toddlers, indicating that a whole new generation were being won over by the magic of life at Rydell High.
Throughout the two-hour show, they whooped, clapped, laughed and at times sang along to bring new life to this 1950s rock n roll party. And the great addition of a small sing-along section at the end, led by the cast members, ensured that the audience left still feeling that Grease Is The Word.
Grease: The Musical is now on tour and for more details of venues and tickets visit www.greasethemusical.co.uk
- Over 700 white t-shirts get washed every month
- Ten jumbo cans of hairspray and eight pots of gel are used every week
- “Hopelessly Devoted to You” wasn’t even written until the film was halfway done, and it wasn’t recorded and filmed until everything else was complete. That didn’t stop it from receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, though.