Tuesday, April 23

Grease – Sheffield Lyceum

Directed by the renowned Nickolai Foster and Choreography by the legendary Arlene Phillips, Grease hits the Sheffield stage with all the frenzy the original 1978 film created. With an audience full of Pink Ladies and T Birds, I anticipated a night of raucous sing-a-long, but on the whole the audience were too riveted by the performances they were witnessing to join in, until invited to on the Grease Mega Mix. Only then was the whole audience on its feet raising the roof and loving every moment.

As the band struck up, conducted by Rickey Long the oh so familiar songs soared and so did my expectation as I realised we weren’t in for the sweet version of the film, the energy from the cast was electric from the very start, edgy, with a hint of modernity, a lifetime away from the sickly images that stick in our memory from the film.

Foster’s version restores the 1959 action away from California and to its roots in Midwest America, Sandy Dumbrowski no longer Australian but an American with a much more confident exterior and a voice to match, Played by Ellie Kingdon, Sandy was a match for Dan Partridge’s Danny Zuko in every way. Their harmonies were a delight, and their chemistry was blatant! The storyline whilst including all the big film favourites also has some new additions which I loved. Watch out for the ‘Tattoo Song’ by the Palace Burger Boys, note, no longer the T Birds and the ‘Mooning; song which is now a rip roaring and much improved duet by Josh Barnett as Roger and Maeve Byrne as Jan. It was this duet that stole the show for me, Byrne is a real ‘Hoot’ in this role. Rizzo’s (Tendai Rinomhota) ‘There are worse things I could do’ was emotively performed and is now acidically aimed at Sandy rather than Kenickie, this really worked with the grittier interpretation of the issues in Rydell High School of love, betrayal, angst, bullying and sex.  Mentions must go to the two Jacob’s stunning vocals, Jacob Fisher as Vince Fontaine/Teen Angel and Jacob Young as Johnny Casino. Young oozes stage presence and I was drawn to him in ensemble numbers too, a name to watch out for.

There are several things that really impressed me about this production, none more than the exploration of the secondary characters who have a much more detailed character portrayal in the show. Impressive performances from Doody (Alex Christian), Sonny (Christian Zaccarini) and Barnett’s Roger bring the roles to life and take the storyline in new directions rather than relying on the love story of Sandy and Danny.  Likewise, Hannah-Faith Marram’s Marti and Marianna Neofitou’s Frenchie enrich the teenage emotional rollercoaster with vigour. Secondly, the sheer talent and exuberance of the whole cast, they just ‘gel’. Additionally, the set is impressively complex and very animated, in design it adds mood to the city streets and Rydell itself with a looming urban feel that only extenuates the ‘rawness’ of this production. It had almost West Side Story like vibes at times, matched by the scenes of gang battles in the city at night.

This rocking production of Grease is one not to be missed, filled with nostalgia yet grit, innocence yet relevance and superb performances by a very tight cast. With high energy from the very opening scene the audience are transported to the early days of Rock and Roll and a time when the youth started to come from behind their mother’s skirts and make a statement. I left the theatre with a big smile and plenty of things to think about… just how I like it.  Grease is at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 9th October 2021…. It has got to be the hottest ticket in town, grab one now. https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/grease

It’s electrifying!

Reviewed Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 6th October 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★