Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

LIKE most people, I first came upon Grease when the now legendary film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John arrived like a bursting meteor of energy in 1978.

Big impression as it made, I never expected to find it gathering big audiences in the theatre, well over half of whom were not even born when the film was first released. But here I sat among an excited packed audience, ranging in age from bus-pass holders to primary school students, all eagerly anticipating the opening number.

When it came sweeping all before it like a musical tsunami, it took the audience with it on a journey back to the 1950s and the tough, uncompromising Rydell High School where Danny Zuko and his gang dominate the more rebellious male students. A severe culture shock is about to explode into this scene, with Danny’s summer holiday ‘fling’, Sandy.

The youthful Curve theatre company had no inhibitions as they attacked the big chorus numbers like Summer Nights, Greased Lightening, We Go Together and You’re the one that I Want like a pack of urban wolves determined to change the world.

Just where they found the energy to sing, perform the often-gymnastic routines, and also be occasional scene shifters is anyone’s guess. Everything is done at such a pace that the individual characters are left rather blurred, but that’s the fault of the production rather than the players.

Nothing blurred about Dan Partridge who plays Danny with a self-assured arrogance and belief in male superiority that he could only have got away with in that distant period.

I can’t help but think that director Nikolai Foster missed a trick with Georgia Louise as Sandy. She has the control and range of voice that allowed her to sing Hopelessly Devoted to You with deep tenderness and Goodbye to Sandra Dee with a passion born out of ruthless determination. We didn’t see enough of the shy diffident girl vocally and dramatically before she made the change to the “new” non-Sandra Dee Sandy.

In the midst of this team -work comes the one-off characters of the Teen Angel and local way over the top king of the local DJs Vince Fontaine. They are roles that fit TV personality and singer Peter Andre like a well-loved glove.. He doesn’t miss a trick as he extracts every last drop of humour out of the character and vocals.

At the end of the show, while the company went through repeats of all the big numbers, the audience were on their feet looking for a space in the aisle to celebrate with the cast. Not bad for a show which officially has its 50th birthday this year, first seen at Kingston Mines Theatre, Chicago in 1971!


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