By midlandsmovies, Dec 13 2016 10:43AM
Grease at The Curve catches lightning in a bottle
Let’s put this straight out there – Grease is my favourite musical. The combination of catchy 50s-influenced pop hits together with a classic tale of boyfriend and girlfriend from opposite sides of the track is as fantastic now as it was when the film version was released in 1978.
In this version Nikolai Foster directs a new production of Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs' 1971 musical and takes many cues from the original version rather than the film adaptation. Here the T-Birds we know from the motion picture revert to the original Burger Boys gang, but the same saga of Summer Lovin’ returning to high school is still the story’s driving force.
This version also includes songs the movie omitted but film-fans shouldn’t be dismayed as solo performances of Grease’s unforgettable classics including “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, by the amazing Djalenga Scott as a raw Rizzo and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from Jessica Paul as Sandy showed the talent of the cast and why the latter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The story remains mostly the same with popular gang rebel Danny Zuko (played with assured confidence by Dex Lee) meeting goodie two-shoes Sandy during summer only for them to be re-united once school reconvenes. The subsequent clash between their romantic liaison and friends’ peer pressure see the two try to rekindle their whirlwind romance at Rydell High.
Sitting alongside 1950s high school classics like American Graffiti (and even Back to the Future) the film delivered the showtunes by two of the most popular stars at the time; John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. But those big shoes are excellently filled by the two leads here as well as a high quality support cast who get equally as many funny lines and songs as the protagonists.
Faithful stage recreations of the hand-jive dance off, the burger joint and various school locations are brilliantly rendered with steps doubling up as tiered bleachers and household stairs whilst benches, pummel horses and gym equipment resonate from the period. Designer Colin Richmond should be commended on this innovative use of identifiable school symbols as well as descending Teen Angels, flying Grease Lightning cars and 50s neon signs that evoke the period and help showcase the talents of the cast.
Choreographer Nick Winston brings updated moves and sporty boogies to the athletic stage jiving and twists the audience’s knowledge of the film version’s style with brand new takes on Travolta’s hip shaking gyrations and the gang’s ‘wella-wella’ thrusts.
The music was spot-on with not a note misplaced and included some excellent guitar solos. Particular highlights included the extended (and reprised) ‘Born to Hand Jive’ and the frankly amazing acoustic rendition of ‘Those Magic Changes’. This version goes from chord structure to cast choir in a melodic minute of well-performed music and dialogue.
‘Beauty School Drop Out’ could have done with the crooner-style of Frankie Avalon rather than the modern Glee-ish delivery we were treated to but this was more of a personal preference. However, some mature experience was brought by Darren Bennett whose Vince Fontaine was a comedy cameo of such hilarious quality he nearly stole the show with a pantomime performance of high kicks and sweaty dance twirls.
The whole production of Grease uses its perfect technical and creative attributes alongside the already infamous songs to create an incredible stage show, Daddy-O. Either as a newcomer or Grease enthusiast, this new version at Leicester’s Curve encapsulates the joy of the film whilst music and cast go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!
Midlands Movies Mike