Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh – until 16 September 2017
Guest reviewer: Liv Ancell
The turn of Grease at the Edinburgh Playhouse transformed the theatre into a lively hothouse of hand jiving, bomber jackets and 50s nostalgia. With hundreds of costume changes, multiple set changes and an enviable line-up of cast and crew, including Tom Parker of The Wanted fame, this production of Grease was far from an understated affair.
The first surprise in the production came when the curtain initially lifted to reveal an exposed upper mezzanine level to the stage, where the live band was on display for all to see. With charismatic showmanship, the flamboyant conductor introduced each of his band members with the flick of the wrist, while they in turn stood up and gestured to the audience to boast their musical prowess. As far as warm-up acts go, this one was pretty spectacular.
Cut and the band are once again hidden from view (only to emerge later in a few choice scenes), with the show’s two star-crossed lovers emerging from opposite ends of the stage, raised on pedestals in a creative use of staging. Danielle Hope astounded the audience as Sandy from the very first note, captivating even the back seats with her commanding theatrical voice, with seemingly endless levels of range and depth. Tom Parker successfully portrayed the too-cool-for-school attitude of well-loved character Danny Zucko, but the powerful contrast at play between his boy-band tones and Danielle’s finely trained voice was at times, very clear to see. His “Sandy” solo was less than electrifying, whereas Danielle’s solo performances had the audience clinging onto every perfectly delivered note.
The supporting cast in this musical raised the energy levels tenfold; hand-jiving, flipping and jesting their way into the audiences hearts. Jan (Rosanna Harris) and Roger (Oliver Jacobson) were transformed from sideline characters into firm audience favourites. Each couple’s voices were paired to perfection, making for some harmonious duets. Special mention goes out to Alessia McDermott, who was standing in for ChaCha on the evening we attended; she high-kicked and smouldered her way through the show, leaving the audience clueless as to why she was only an understudy in the first place!
As far as performances go, this one was extremely physical, but the young cast kept pace the whole way through. It will come as no surprise to any viewer that the dance scenes were the brainchild of Strictly’s Arlene Phillips – the couple’s competition at the school dance featured more lifts and swings than you could shake a baton at. The razor-sharp choreography throughout was a real highlight of this performance, with not a single cast member slipping up during the lightning-speed handjiving sequences.
In a nutshell, this show was both ambitious and energetic in equal measure. The flashes, bangs, fire and sparks during the Greased Lightning song resulted in a real show-stopping moment, while Danielle’s voice reached dimensions far beyond what Olivia Newton-John could deliver in the movie version. Whether it was down to delivery or acoustics, some of the snappy tongue-in-cheek comments were unfortunately difficult to hear, and many of these jokes were as a result missed by the audience.
Overall, this was a very well-assembled production of an old school classic, delivered with such youthful energy and accompanied by great staging – viewers of any age or gender are guaranteed to get swept up by the excitement and extravagance of this show.