Grease the Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre
Grease Not Quite Slick Enough
Is there something timeless about Grease? Or is it a musical that is lost in time, forever tied to a culture that celebrates the 50s, Elvis and James Dean. This was fast love, frocks and funky dudes in shades of cool.
Grease existed on Broadway half a dozen years before Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta turned it into the biggest grossing film musical of all time in 1978. You simply cannot go wrong with the songs, the style and the sassiness. The opening night at its latest stop in New Wimbledon Theatre was just a case of how much cool do we actually get?
On this evidence, a little bit more time in the freezer might have been useful. Grease is essentially a sketchily simple love story between Sandy, a good innocent girl that can’t understand why her summer love, Danny, is now acting so distant in front of his high school mates. The supporting cast are a mixture of clean cut American gals, goofy guys, the school nerd Eugene, who gives a neat line in dancing, and the coarse Rizzo and her equally rough love, Kenickie.
Sandy and Danny Lack Chemistry
Tom Parker, he of mega boy band The Wanted, gives a very capable vocal performance as Zucko, hitting the right notes and showing a real sonic connection with the audience. His camaraderie with his leather jacket T Bird gang is less assured. Zucko’s stride needs a little bit more oomph and ego behind it and Parker, likeable as he is, can’t quite get the mixture right, although his comic moments trying to woo Sandy in the Drive-in are worth a chortle.
Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope works it better with Sandy as the innocent lass who can’t see beyond good manners and sweetness as a cocktail for true love. Hope likes to hit the high notes as she shows on Hopelessly Devoted To You, although the chemistry between her and Parker lacks real edge to truly make you care. It’s ok, though. Grease has a lot of good distractions and these come mainly in the form of dancing.
Grease Lightning Comes in the Dance Sequences
The musical really comes alive with the energy of a Riverdance when Cha Cha (a seductive Natasha Mould) takes the stage to dance with Danny and the ensemble hit their stride. Louisa Lytton plays a lukewarm Rizzo, but she can certainly move as proved by her run on Strictly Come Dancing. While we are on the subject, it will be no surprise to find out that Arlene Phillips choreographs these sequences with a sure touch – more sure than her Panto performance in the same theatre in December’s Dick Whittington...
The sets and sound are full on, with the band getting their five minutes of fame at the beginning with a medley of numbers that are supposed to get you fired up. Visually, there is real take-off, especially during Greased Lightnin’ when the car becomes the wow factor amid an array of twirling dancers, whizzing tyres and fast flourishes. Darren Day makes a knowing cameo and revels in the role of Teen Angel, as he fully hams up Beauty School Drop Out.
This version of Grease is good enough in its core duties but the dialogue is a little wooden when the jokes aren’t filling in the gaps. Nevertheless, the crowd pleasing moments must have been good enough as most of the audience stood up at the end. You really can’t go wrong when you play the main musical cards right.