Reviewed by Jenny Bray
Iconic 50s fun with dancing a plenty and lots of well-known songs.
Grease is one of those musicals that almost everyone has heard of and knows a few songs from. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey are the original creators of the musical which then lead to the iconic film in 1978. The film is one of a few films that I can channel hop and see it part way through yet still know the storyline and be happy to pick it up from whichever point it was flicked over at. It’s crazy to think that the storyline has been around nearly 50 years yet is still really popular and came across as fresh and not at all dated. There were several pink ladies and people wearing 50s get up in the audience.
It was on at the Lyceum in Sheffield. The theatre is in the city centre and there are lots of places nearby that you can park, including the local Q parks where you can get the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of the theatre staff. As it was a wet evening we decided to use the cloakroom to put our wet coats and umbrella in. This is a free service provided by the theatre. It’s the first time I’ve utilised it but can see how it’s much more convenient than having layers draped all over your seat. Within the theatre are two bars, one on each level, and a kiosk that sells sweets and ice cream as well as an area next to the box office that sells merchandise (bright pink branded umbrellas and pink lady t-shirts were the items I could see). All the staff were very welcoming and friendly.
The show starts with an announcement from the principal reminding people to turn their mobile phones off as they haven’t been invented yet in the 50s! This is a story of a time when love interests in school were a little less complicated than today. With cheeky gangs of students in their ‘in’ groups being the cool kids and various love interests along the way this is the tale at Rydell High school and ‘summer loving’. The American accents throughout are suitably strong and whiney.
Danny (Tom Parker from the Wanted) meets Sandy (Danielle Hope who won BBC’s ‘Over the Rainbow’) over summer, where their differences don’t show and didn’t matter. They don’t think they’ll see each other again but as Sandy becomes the new girl at Rydell she meets back up with Danny and realises he’s the leader of the leather clad, slick haired T Birds. Sandy is a straight-laced girl who is taken in by the Pink Ladies and, some may say, corrupted by them! Their differences are obvious but we all know that love can conquer all in the end, after a rocky route to the finale. The chemistry between these characters is amazing throughout the show and their voices were a perfect match and level for the duets.
Louisa Lytton (who I recognised from EastEnders and The Bill) plays a very believable rough and tough Rizzo, the most outspoken and rebellious Pink Lady with a sharp tongue and who is constantly smoking. I liked her outfits the best. She had some of the boldest stripy dresses.
Doody (Ryan Heenan) was responsible for a fantastic song when performing ‘Those Magic Changes’, which included a great scene with shower cubicles! His voice was amazing during his solo time. We were left rooting for him at various times when he lost his tongue when trying to ask Frenchy (Rhiannon Chesterman) out. The other person you were left rooting for was Eugene (Callum Evans) the loveable nerd.
Kenickie (Tom Senior) led the way for a great rendition of ‘Greased Lightnin’ when the boys are dancing around on his new car. Less seemed to be made of his role than in the film as he often stayed in the background in scenes.
The classic ‘Beauty School Drop Out’ is performed in a suitably over the top way with Teen Angel (George Olney) dressed in shimmering trousers and a white top at the top of a staircase with lots of women in shiny white outfits dancing around underneath.
Tom Parker’s best performance of the night for me was his solo when singing ‘Sandy’ standing in the car after Sandy has left him there after he pushes to ‘make out’ with her.
The finale is set in a diner rather than a fairground, which works well with the stage setting. Danielle Hope’s transformation for the final number is suitably edgy and risqué (for the era).
The stage is set with 50s memorabilia on big banners at the edge. The band are all in bright pink jackets, elevated above the set at the rear of the stage and are incorporated in to some of the songs. Instead of showing all the band members towards the end of the show it was done right at the very start, which I found slightly odd. The stage then converts to various school settings throughout the show including the canteen and the staging around the hall. It also becomes a road, drive-in movie and a diner! I particularly liked when the car first makes an appearance and is battered but then the lights dim and it quickly becomes all sparkly and done up. There are lots of props along the way from light up guitars to cheerleader pom poms. The costumes look authentic with plenty of 50s style swing skirts and dresses. There is also plenty of hair spray and gel in use with the slick quiffs of the boys and the different styles of the girls.
You could really tell that the singers were ‘real’ singers as, although it’s clearly a musical, they could sing well as well as act and dance. The duets, of which there were several, were all fully in harmony and in synch and the voices carried well throughout the show without sounding over sung or over staged as some musicals can. The voices that stood out most to me were those of Danielle Hope, who was playing Sandy; Louisa Lytton, who was Rizzo; and Oliver Jacobson, who was playing Roger. Roger had some great tones to his voice when serenading Jan not long before the interval. They also had great chemistry when flirting around each other. These special mentions don’t mean that all the others weren’t just as good at singing, as all the cast were spot on. The dancing was also spot on and all the cast came across as confident when performing.
There are a few songs that aren’t in the film, which I found made it different enough to make it all the more interesting. It was fun, lively and upbeat with flawless singing, costume changes galore, lots of jumping and dancing around and lots of songs you could easily sing along to. At the end, the cast do a sing along mash up that the audience were up on their feet for.
I rate it a 5/5 and recommend that you catch it while it’s still on in Sheffield.
Tickets cost from £23.50 to £42 (booking fees may apply).
Grease is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 18-23 September 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000