Reviewed by Lindsay Burton
Every now and then, you reach a moment where you realize you’ve never written a single word about a movie that is simply part of the fabric of your film going life. “Grease” is a movie that’s been a huge part of the pop culture landscape since before I was born, and the Sing-a-long-a event of the film is a perfect opportunity for me to finally write about the movie.
There are various things I love about “Grease.” I love the film’s vigour. I love the movie-star charm of John Travolta in the lead. I love the “am I doing this right?” caution of Olivia Newton-John’s performance. I love the fact that the film is so unashamedly filthy. And, like many people, I too love the soundtrack. I’ve heard it enough times that I have the total thing internalized. It’s one of those pieces of pop culture that is simply hardwired into my brain!!
When I first saw the film, I was young enough that I didn’t get how sexual the entire thing was. I just responded to the love story between Danny (Travolta) and Sandy (Newton-John). It’s a simple love story, with such clear and simple difficulties set up for them to get through. People my age have no first-hand experience of the ’50s, but because of the pop culture of our own childhood, we feel familiar with the ’50s in a very intimate way. But of course, it wasn’t the real ’50s. “Grease” isn’t real at all. It is a very old-school musical, and with a fresh coat of paint applied turned into a “sing-a-long-a” event which has gone down a storm! There are little stylistic flourishes from the very start, when Sandy and Danny meet on the beach and have their summer love affair, there are cartoon hearts that explode from the scenery. The lyrics don’t actually appear onscreen ’till “Summer Lovin’” begins, which takes a while. But as soon as the familiar strains of that song begin, these little stylistic touches add up quickly, and the audience in our screening last night was more than willing to follow. People danced. People sang. People hissed and whistled and waved blue balloons in the air!
People applauded each time a favourite character made an entrance. It was a great atmosphere, and it was obvious that the people in that theatre mostly knew the film as well as I do or better.
I am struck again by what amazing chemistry this cast had together.
I’ll just say this about the dancing… the sort of amazing spontaneous choreography that happens in musicals never happens in real life, and what you really get is a sort of enthusiastic flailing while people bellow their favourite lyrics from the songs. And that’s all you really need, because the point isn’t entertaining others… it’s participating with this movie, interacting with it and with your neighbours in the theatre. I wasn’t seated with anyone I know, so it was interesting to see just how ready everyone was to look silly in front of total strangers. Everyone sang with together, automatically dividing up the gender roles on the songs, so there was a real call-and-response going on within the songs. People dressed up and with our interactive goody bag, we had an evening of brilliant fun!
In the end, seeing this in this environment made me extra-thankful that I was seeing the original film and not a freshly cleaned and oh-so-pretty remake. It was pure joy for everyone in that theatre, and I hope you get the chance to enjoy the experience yourself in the weeks ahead.
Sing-a-long-a Grease is currently touring the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.singalonga.net/grease.
For other shows at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND