REVIEW: Grease the Musical – Not a life-changing night of theatre

Grease UK Tour: Photo credit – Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Venue: The Alexandra, Birmingham

Performance Date: 01 November 2021

Reviewer: Sophie Mills

Star Rating: ★★1/2

Very few movie musicals stand the test of time, but you’d be hard pushed to find a member of any generation who doesn’t know a number or two from Grease. The megamix is a classic at weddings and school discos alike, and it’s time to boogie on over to The Alexandra Theatre.

It’s easy to forgive anybody who books a ticket to see Grease to think they’ll be seeing a replica of the 1978 film, but with the musical coming first there’s quite the difference in songs, storyline, and featured performers. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to separate the two. Danny and Sandy’s relationship (and questionable ending – should you really change that much for a boy?) almost feels shoehorned into the stage iteration, and instead, Grease is very much an ensemble musical.

The show opens with the prologue, following Danny and Sandy (Dan Partridge and Ellie Kingdon) ending their summer fling. After the full cast rendition of the title song, we launch into the story. The plot loosely follows the teens’ blossoming relationship, although there is equal emphasis on all the relationships between the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys.

Dan Partridge’s Danny commands the audience with his swagger and heartfelt rendition of Sandy in the second act, but his feelings seem disingenuous. Ellie Kingdon’s vocals are fantastic, and Hopelessly Devoted To You was breathtaking. Sadly, there is no chemistry between Danny and Sandy, and their scenes seem stilted.

If there were ever a role in Grease for a featured performer, Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine is that role. Peter Andre oozes confidence as both characters, and he plays perhaps the best version of Teen Angel to date. The sarcasm that is often lost in translation from page to stage in Beauty School Dropout isn’t missed at all by Andre.

Other notable performances include Those Magic Changes by Alex Christian as Doody and Freddy My Love by Tara Sweeting as Marty – both equal measures fun and a masterclass in stage presence.

Grease is not a life-changing night of theatre, but it feels fresh. Arlene Phillips’ choreography is a world apart from many other choreographers on the scene, and without this innovative yet still fitting with the heart of the show dancing, the musical would be a huge miss. Greased Lightnin’ is by far the standout performance of the entire show, spotlighting the talent the male performers have for movement.

As far as musical theatre goes, Grease is distinctly average. Of course, there are elements that work, but it’s generally forgettable. The performances on their own are great. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as a stage show in this version – that cast is too good for the source material! It’s unlikely to win the hearts of many, but it’s a bit of fun. Although only a bit.

Runs until: 6th November 2021 at The Alexandra

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