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Grease – The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Director: David Gilmore

Reviewer: Poppy Helm

[rating:3]

 

Grease may be a story about teenagers but as a show it’s well into its middle-age; 40 years have passed since its original Broadway debut. Unfortunately, with this particular production, the wrinkles are starting to show.

It’s a story most of us already know; after a romantic summer fling, Danny and Sandy find themselves thrown together for their final year of high school, trying desperately to balance their feelings for each other with that even stronger of teenage desires; the need to be cool. The key themes of the narrative easily span the decades – reputation, relationships and teenage angst are as relevant today as they were in the 50s. It’s a shame then, that an uninspiring set (the blue sky and cloud backdrop in particular) gives the whole show a distinctly dated feel. Perhaps constraints of the venue play their part, but there is definitely some lustre lacking here.

That’s not to say the production isn’t without its merits; Olivia Fines (Kate Somerset How’s understudy) is a suitably sassy Rizzo with plenty of swagger and a soulful voice. Carina Gillespie’s Sandy transforms convincingly from wholesome virgin to lycra-clad vamp, playing both parts with equal vigour. The suspension of the band at the back of the stage is also a pleasing touch for a story with such emphasis on popular music. Some of the smaller rôles provide real highlights; Roger (David O’Reilly) performs an impressive rendition of ‘Mooning’, while Russell Grant’s Teen Angel adds some of the glitz that we’ve been missing. Sadly, nothing is quite enough to lift the whole show far beyond the realms of average.

Grease – I suspect many will continue to be Hopelessly Devoted To You but for this reviewer, the love affair might be over.

 

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