Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh – until 16 September 2017
There’s enough pizzaz and passion for a whole production in the opening number of Grease, at the Playhouse to Saturday. Which is a good thing, given that the overture during which the curtain at the back of the neon-lit stage rises to reveal an on-stage band of seven, is the best thing about the show. That and a considerably flashy version of ‘Greased Lightening’.
Elsewhere there is plenty of puffing from the principals – but not always a lot to show for it. At least with regards the sort of stage spectacular you would expect. Although, to be fair, there are some more than solid performances from the actors playing the likes of Doody, Roger, Jan and Frenchy.
This is a Grease which feels, more than most, to be pared right back to the essential details of the story of nice girl Sandy hitching up with ne’er-do-well boy Danny in the holidays – and having a bit of difficulty maintaining the relationship when they discover they are going to the same school.
Danielle Hope puts in a strong acting and singing performance as Sandy. She has a spiky self-preservation about her when blanked by Danny just after she has told her new-found pals in the Pink Ladies all about her holiday romance. And you feel her pain as she tries to hold her own when hanging out with Louise Lytton’s tough-as-nails Rizzo and the Pink Ladies.
The Wanted’s Tom Parker as Danny does well enough in portraying a nervous lad masking his feelings with misplaced comedy. The problem is that instead of finding that inner turmoil beneath the leather jacket of the T-Birds, surface is all that Parker has.
Consequently, Parker’s Danny is simply not very likeable. So instead of urging the couple to get together, you are left hoping that she will fall for someone else.
Of course she doesn’t and instead opts to put on the skin-tight outfit made famous by Olivia Newton-John in the original film. Which just makes things worse. As much as she convinces as nice Sandy, Hope fails to convince as street-wise Sandy.
It’s a down turn at the worst possible time – the final number. Not even a surfeit of reprises and finale numbers of the shows big hits can make up for it. No matter how good the dancing is.
Somehow, director David Gilmore has managed to front load the show with all its good bits.
Those Magic Changes, with Ryan Keenan as Doody giving it big licks in the Rydell High locker room, is a real laugh and makes you think that more must definitely be on the way. Tom Senior is in fine Rock’n’Roll form for Greased Lightening, with the staging and lighting switched up high.
When the T-Birds and Pink Ladies are hanging out on the bleachers, Oliver Jacobson and Rosanna Harris as Roger and Jan, give it great licks in a version of Mooning that is both heartfelt and hilarious. And when Sandy duets with Jan on the winsome It’s Raining on Prom Night, Hope and Harris get it exactly right.
With a cast of twenty on the stage this is always going to have a certain amount going for it. And there are nice details in the background at the High School Hop, while the dancing is top notch, whether it is hand jive sequences or the dance competition at the hop.
A production which is as well greased as it should be, but which doesn’t reach the heights it might.