Ahhhhh those chills, they're multiplying...and it’s not just down to the nut shrivelling weather this time. Usually given at least one showing on TV over the Christmas period this year the New Alexandra is offering would be Sandys and Dannys the live version of Grease as an welcome alternative to the old “oh yes it is, oh no it isn’t, it’s behind you” panto business. Oh yes they are, oh no they’re...oh you get the idea.
Now 40 years on from the original stage musical (first performed in an old trolley barn in Chicago...that’s got to be worth a point in a pub quiz one day) and more than three decades since the classic movie version was unleashed Grease is seemingly as popular as ever judging by its four week run here. Whilst this current touring version’s perhaps low on big name stars (unless you count three time Olympic gold medal winning skater Robin Cousins) happily the cast’s high on energy, really throwing themselves into the performance (sometimes literally) to capture that hormone soaked buzz of rock ‘n’roll’s glory days.
Given the iconic status of the movie version it’s tempting to compare anyone stepping up to play Danny and Sandy with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Don’t. Approach this version as something fresh instead, with both leads bringing their own unique take on the roles. Danny Bayne plays Danny with a neat little twist of Joey from Friends, getting plenty of laughs along the way but dispensing with the vague hint of menace that Travolta had (although that’s probably down to Mr T’s real personality rather than his acting ability eh?). The virgin turned sex bomb of Sandy is arguably the hardest part to nail (as it were...) but Carina Gillespie makes the transition perfectly, transforming from straight laced to lace me up in a basque in the blink of an eye. The supporting cast were all excellent too but special mentions must go to Laura Wilson for her delightfully kooky Jan, Darren John as the super geek Eugene and Robin Cousins who camped it up beautifully as Teen Angel. Get that man on Strictly Come Dancing next year.
Whilst the solo numbers saw some impressive performances, Carina’s Hopelessly Devoted To You honestly surpassed the original for instance, it’s the ensemble pieces that’ll make you want to come back to this show time and time again. From the explosive opening of Grease Is The Word through to We Go Together and on to a frankly frantic Born To hand Jive that left me knackered these sections of the show are a grin inducing, foot tapping, ass shaking (not easy in a theatre seat but I gave it a go) treat.
All in all a hugely enjoyable production of true musical gem. Merry Grease-mas everyone!
Grease is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Tuesday 31st December.