Tuesday, July 5

Grease the Musical – Festival Theatre Edinburgh

This production can be viewed two ways; a successful adaptation combining the best of the original, visceral, 1971 Chicago show and the candyfloss of the 1978 film… or something that falls between the two stools of these contrasting affairs. Undeniably it was lively, but frenetic rather than kinetic. The constant movement made for a spectacle but parts of the script, including many of the caustic, witty, one-liners, were lost in the hustle and bustle, denying the audience a glimpse of the themes so vital when Grease first made its impact. The screen greeting the audience prior to the start promised much, decorated with small black & white TV’s, transistor radios, the most modern of things back in the 50’s, both devices carrying – amidst Elvis and Westerns – the advertising that propelled the materialism and consumption central to the American Dream. Grease originally portrayed an early teenage unease with the notion that all this ‘stuff’ in a suburban setting would result in happiness and contentment. But on with the show…

The cast was a riot of ungoverned – chiefly young – talent, several making their theatre debuts, but the inclusion of Peter Andre, while 100% entertaining, was too much of a distraction. There was a lack of genuine chemistry between many of the protagonists though, to be fair, all the actors had a lot to do. Frenchy (a slick, classy performance by Marianna Neofitou) was the one character who made all the movement, dancing and singing look easy. Let us not forget it’s a musical: The songs (some from the original, some from the film and some completely new) were the one solidly-delivered aspect, expertly played by Dan Glover’s well-drilled band and excellently sung by the cast, highlights being Sandy’s (Ellie Kingdon) powerful rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ and the snappy, polished version of ‘Those Magic Changes’ from Doody (Alex Christian).

The story was at points swamped by the dizzy speed of the action and dialogue. The transformation of Sandy from Miss Prim to Miss Vixen seemed abrupt but again the music rescued everything as those first bass notes of ‘You’re The One That I Want’ kicked in and the feelgood finale was underway, members of the audience on their feet to add their own (less orderly) clapping and (less co-ordinated) dance moves, a delightful sight in itself.

It’s petty to pick holes in a production where it’s clear everyone has worked their backsides off (under probably unusual conditions) or to ignore the unbridled euphoria of being back in a theatre watching a live performance again, but with a little less haste, and with some of the movement and dancing trimmed back, this could actually be the different, winning combination of stage-play and film.

Grease continues in Edinburgh until Saturday 2nd October before continuing a UK tour. https://greasethemusicalontour.com/tour-tickets/

Reviewer: Roger Jacobs

Reviewed: 28th September2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★