It’s been over 40 years since Grease opened on Broadway and since 1972 the high school musical’s place has been firmly established in the cultural hall of fame. Home to the T-birds and Pink Ladies, Rydell High has taken residence at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for a one week run as part of it’s latest tour.
Following in the footsteps of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John who famously played the iconic roles in the 1978 movie is Danny Bayne starring as Danny Zuko and Carina Gillespie as his sweetheart Sandy, with Strictly Come Dancing’s Russell Grant guest starring as Teen Angel.
Despite Bayne winning the hearts of the viewing public on ITV’s Grease is the Word talent programme and then playing the role for over two years at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End, he fails to make an impact here. Bayne presents an over-the-top version of Zuko full of far too many cheesy asides, which manages to erase any ‘cool’ traits the role contains. Vocally he lacks power – highlighted even more so in his duets with Gillespie who is far more talented and suit to her ‘girl next door’ role.
Surprisingly the saviour of the show is Astrologer turned performer Russell Grant – (I wonder if he predicted that in the stars?) Clad in what can only be described as a Bacofoil suit he is campness personified and takes great pleasure in parading around the stage showing off some of the moves he learnt on ‘Strictly’. The audience adore Grant and he lovingly plays up to their raputuous applause and cheers throughout his rendition of Beauty School Dropout.
A special mention must also go to Richard Vincent as Doody who provides two of the shows best numbers Those Magic Changes and Rock and Roll Party Queen. Vincent has a great stage presence and it is a real shame he is limited to a supporting role.
At this performance, standing in for Kate Somerset How in the role of Rizzo, was understudy Olivia Fines. Despite me willing Fines to make the most of her moment in the spotlight I felt she lacked the spikiness the leader of the Pink Ladies needs to have. A sharper tongue was required for Rizzo’s delivery and unfortunately Fines solo number There Are Worst Things I Could Do came across laboured and pitchy.
Steel hardy fans of the film version of Grease will find David Gilmore’s production a little dis-jointed – scenes are presented in a different order and Sandy’s sexy transformation at the show’s finale lacks the drama of the onscreen reveal at the fairground, instead transposing it to an all-American Diner that Sandy simply walks into from stage right.
Despite all of this there were many in the audience that seemed to be having a ball, singing along and even dancing on their feet for the Grease Megamix finale. For me though this show was not ‘The One That I Want’.
Mon 8 – Sat 13 Oct
Palace Theatre, Oxford St, Manchester
Mon-Thur eves 7.30pm. Fri 5.30pm & 8.30pm. Sat 5pm & 8.30pm
£12 – £37.50
0844 871 3019