Last Updated on 31st August 2023
Grease the musical opened this week at London’s Dominion Theatre. We stopped to read the reviews and see if Grease is still the word!
Nikolai Foster’s production is brightly entertaining and blasts out room-filling energy in its big dance numbers by choreographer Arlene Phillips, with tight formations of sharp, rhythmic 50s motifs. The cast sing the film’s theme song like a manifesto, full of rebellion and disaffection, and this version does draw on Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s grittier 1971 script and score. Some of those songs are forgettable, but Danny’s How Big I’m Gonna Be offers a glimmer of self-awareness after all his cool-kid posturing. Mooning, a sweet falling-in-love between two minor characters, showcases the soaring falsetto of Noah Harrison.
Lyndsey Winship The Guardian ✭✭✭
The show’s standout performance comes from Olivia Moore as Sandy, who comes across as far less of a drip than that other Olivia (Newton-John) who played the role in the film. Moore’s Sandy is definitely ‘a good girl’, but she has a steely moral core, with a righteousness to her disapproval of her new schoolmates’ tawdry antics. And when she leathers up at the end, it lands very differently: it’s done with an ironic glint in her eye, and with the clear purpose of demonstrating to Danny that it is possible to change yourself. She’s trying to set him a good example, not to charm him over (though she does that as well).
Andrzej Lukowski Time Out ✭✭✭
Grim is the word. This version of the beloved 50s-set high school musical has a hard carapace of professionalism but underneath it’s colourless, charmless, and emptily energetic. The love story of bad boy Danny and goody two-shoes Sandy is insipid, and swamped by a tide of teen-drama clichés. The familiar songs still stand up, but only a few of the big numbers – Greased Lightning, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Hand Jive (here sounding alarmingly like ‘hand-job’) – have real vocal power or choreographic verve.
Nick Curtis Evening Standard ✭✭
The core issue with this production, which feels caught between sombre realism and full-throttle, sugar-rush escapism. It feints at the former, like teasing a rumble with another gang, trouble with the cops, or a more hard-hitting look at predatory male behaviour, yet never quite commits. Though given the glee with which fans welcomed the end singalong megamix, I rather suspect that it’s the gentler, more inviting side of Grease which will keep audiences asking “Tell me more, tell me more”.
Marianka Swain London Theatre ✭✭✭