Grease at The Orchard Theatre

Grease is the word this week at the Orchard Theatre with this new production hitting the stage. Grease follows good girl Sandy when she moves to Rydell High and she finds her summer romance, Danny is also at school there. We meet the Pink ladies and the Burger Palace Boys (no longer the T-Birds of the film) and follow the friendships and romances between them all.

The new production of Grease promises to be grittier than the film and other productions you may have been used you. It returns to the original script and new (old) songs and reintroduced including a tattoo song and a song that uniquely lets us se inside Danny’s head after Sandy asks him if he is ever going to make something of himself. The characters in this version feel more layered and nuanced. Some issues that are glossed over in the film, such as how quickly Sandy are accepted by the Pink Ladies, provide a new focus for the plot. Equally other Pink Ladies and Burger Palace Boys are given more stage time to allow the audience to invest in their blossoming relationships as well. There were however points in the new script where I struggled to follow how it was driving the story forward. There were numerous run ins with the police which felt very West Side Story and games of penny pinching between the boys. Being a fan of Grease many of these changes were surprising, this is not a criticism but simply a warning to those who go expecting a carbon copy of the film or earlier musical productions.

The highlight of the show is choreography by Arelene Phillips. It was energetic but also at times, much like the reimagination of the show itself unexpected. Simple moments such as the girls sitting on the canteen chairs in various formations during Summer Nights were beautifully done and by contrast the big numbers such as Born to Hand Jive, including Danny and Cha Cha’s winning duet were equally as impressive but for very different reasons.

My main criticism of the show is that I often struggled to understand what the actors were saying or singing due to a combination of a heavy accent and poor diction. At times the audience are often overly familiar with the script (and sometimes so much so that they beat the actors to the rest of the line) however when delivering the new songs or less familiar parts of the script it was more important than ever to hear it all clearly and more often than not I struggled.

Ellie Kingdom played the role of Sandy on the night I saw it and it was lovely to see Sandy delivered as someone who was sure f herself and her morals rather than a bit simpering. She also had a beautiful voice which really shone during ‘Hopelessly Devoted.’ Danny was played by Dan Patridge and he had just the right amount of confidence and swagger. I also really enjoyed Inez Budd and Josh Barnett and Marty and Roger together and I found myself really rooting for their relationship.

On a slightly separate note it was lovely to see some diversity in the cast. Grease is far too often a very white cast but Rizzo was played Tendai Rinomhota, a black actress who captured a balance between the front that Rizzo puts on for the world and the pain she is going through.

I would be remiss to finish this review and not mention the reason that many audience members were there…..Peter Andre! He played Vince Fontain and Teen Angel. He was incredibly cheesy but this was exactly what these roles needed and I found myself laughing along with his performances, enjoying his delivery and the lighter moments that he brought to the show.

I would recommend that Grease fans and the younger generation yet to discover this iconic show get along to this tour. Whilst not all of the die hard fans will love this new take it is an interesting production, staged well and choreographed beautifully with a very talented cast.

If you liked this review you might also like my review of Rocky Horror Show, Waitress and Six.

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