Grease review – Leeds Grand Theatre

This revamped production of Grease, directed by Nikolai Foster, puts smut and scrapping above all else – a worrying trend of quite a few theatre productions I’ve seen this year.

Pretty much all of the characters centre around promiscuity and flirtation, with the answer to most jibes being to shove each other about a bit. It’s all a little immature and annoying to watch, particularly when Sandy, played by Martha Kirby, is just as bad as the rest of them. It’s impossible to see why her character is any different to the other Pink Ladies when any level of vulnerability or innocence has been stripped away.

Dan Partridge as Danny Zuko manages to bring the modern day “LAD” to the 1950s, with the rest of his gang following suit. I’m not quite sure it works and I certainly don’t like any of their characters, but it’s an interesting way to bring the show to modern audiences.

Rhianna-Louise McCaulsky is fantastic as Betty Rizzo, with a powerful voice and effortlessly antagonistic personality. She brings intrigue to her part, which is lacking from some of the other cats members.

Now onto Peter Andre as Teen Angel, the man everyone’s come to see. In all honesty, they needn’t have bothered even putting on a full production or casting the other parts, because Andre blows it all away. He might not have the best voice in the world, but it’s so distinctive and his charisma just bounds off the stage. It’s one song and one song only, but my goodness it makes the show worthwhile.

Generally, though, the production flails a little. It’s neither modern, nor true to the old fashioned original style. It’s not displaying West Side Story-style gang culture, but it fiddles with the idea on occasion, not really committing to be one thing or the other. The choreography from Arlene Phillips is deserving of a mention but the general direction is lacklustre and the characters seem a little weak and unbelievable because of it.

The set design by Colin Richmond is absolutely stunning, putting the audience in a school-like environment with modern touches throughout. It’s a real wow set, and one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Unfortunately I simply have to mention the technical difficulties which caused the whole first scene to be shut down and re-booted. These things happen, but they shouldn’t happen in such a bumbling way and noone really seemed to know what they were doing or how to recover quickly and effectively. A shame, but luckily the cast don’t let it affect the rest of the show.

Catch Grease at Leeds Grand Theatre until 20th July.

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