“ Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine's Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ. Phone booking: 0117 929 9444/7799. „
GREASE THE MUSICAL ***I met a girl crazy for me…Met a boy cute as can be*** So one Saturday afternoon, I went to the Bristol Hippodrome to see Grease with my nine-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son. After finding the stage version of Fame to be somewhat disappointing the month before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time. My son has ADHD and rarely goes to the theatre, as he finds it hard to sit still and concentrate for so long. He also can find loud noises and crowds rather daunting, so it was a bit of a gamble… ***Summer sun, something's begun, but oh oh the summer nights*** We had front row seats, so it was easy to see everything that happened. First of all, the curtains opened to reveal a live band perched on a high stage above where the action takes place. A very enthusiastic conductor got us all wrapped up in it immediately and the band was superb. Once the show started, we all became completely wrapped up in it within the first few minutes. I was relieved to see it kept faithful to the film and even quoted whole bits of dialogue. (I am old enough to admit I saw the film in the cinema when it came out and I know most of the words!) Unlike the stage version of Fame, you aren’t presented with new characters, name changes or unknown songs. Grease is all I could have wished for and more. We settled down enthralled. ***He was sweet, just turned eighteen…Well she was good, you know what I mean*** The lead characters are Danny and Sandy. I’m sure most of you know the story but briefly, Danny and Sandy have had a holiday romance. The start of the new term sees Sandy – a well-behaved, shy girl – begin to attend Rydell High School, where Danny is well-known for being something of a stud and a rebel, definitely cool – something Sandy is not. The story follows their on-off romance, as they try to change themselves to f
it in better with each other’s personalities. Of course, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John played Danny and Sandy in the film and they portrayed the roles brilliantly, so it’s a bit of a hard act to follow. In the stage musical, Danny is usually played by the only star name in the cast. Previously, the actors have included Craig McLachlan (Neighbours, Bugs), Steven Houghton (London’s Burning, Bugs), Ian Kelsey (Emmerdale, Casualty) as well as Luke Goss (famous for being in Bros and subsequently peeing away a fortune), Shane Ritchie (famous for being rather a substandard hubby to a Nolan sister) and Darren Day (famous for his failed relationships with a string of soap actresses). This tour stars Craig Urbani, who I must admit, I had never heard of before. His theatre credits are impressive though – The Rocky Horror Show (Brad), The Buddy Holly Story (Buddy), Annie (Rooster) and even playing the Fonz in a musical version of Happy Days directed by Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler himself! CV aside, it didn’t take me long to warm to him at all. He has a wonderful stage presence, a mock arrogance that is both funny and endearing, without ever crossing the line into immodesty. He is good looking and has a wonderful voice too. Within minutes, I was quite happy to be there watching him, without any regret at not seeing someone I had heard of. Haley Flaherty played Sandy and although her co-star outshined her, she performed her role with confidence and sang beautifully. There seemed to be a nice friendly chemistry between the two as well, which enhanced their scenes together. ***Keep talkin', whoah keep talkin'*** The entire cast was impressive. Being a former gymnast and dancer myself, I can often pick out little flaws in the routines, but I found the whole show wonderfully compelling and loved every minute of it. The singing and dancing was a big highlight, with
each number looking more and more elaborate, but performed brilliantly. Some of the cast who particularly deserve a mention are Matthew Cutts (who made a very sexy Kenickie), Peter Jamieson (a very engaging and cute Roger), Tanya Caridia (who played Frenchy to perfection), Rebecca Cameron (who was a very sweet Jan), Paul Burnham (who completely stole the scenes he was in as an OTT camp Vince Fontaine), Nina French (who played Rizzo as if the part was made for her and performed her serious scenes with great emotion) and Chloe Bell (who was ideal for Patty, with her suppleness, charm and gymnastic ability). ***It’s about time you knew the score*** Of course, everyone in the audience knew the score and plenty were singing along to the familiar songs, including me. All the classics are there – Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, Hopelessly Devoted To You, etc. Some of you might notice I’m using lyrics from the songs as sub-headings. It’s quite easy to find them on a lyric site on the web. ***Now your bangs are curled, your lashes twirled*** The make-up, hair and costumes were all very good, obviously based a lot on the film version. You get the usual leather jackets, cheerleading outfits and Pink Ladies jackets. When you got close up to the actors, you could see some of them were wearing wigs and had very heavy make-up on, but this wasn’t apparent from the audience and they all looked very convincing in their roles. ***Tell me more, tell me more, Like does he have a car?*** Yes, there’s a real car on stage! Although the whole car race sequence is omitted (and let’s face it, who can blame them?), we still have the bit about Kenickie acquiring the old banger and promising to do it up, until it can attract the ladies. This is done with another impressive song and dance routine to Greased Lightning (What else?!), where the car is transformed from a clapped-out
wreck to a sparkling silver love machine. ***You know that I ain't braggin', she's a real pussy wagon*** There are some sexual references in the show, some of which made me cringe a little bit, seeming as I’d brought two of the kids with me. But to be honest, they giggled a couple of times and the rest went over their heads, so that was okay. There were certainly plenty of children in the audience and let’s face it, if they’ve seen the film, they’ve heard the words anyway. There are no ‘f’ words though, only a couple of milder swearwords. ***Just keep your cool…now you’re starting to drool*** Grease has definitely got a sexual element to it, but again, this would bypass most children. There are gorgeous men and sexy girls, leather jackets and short skirts, high kicks and lots of leg. There is even a scene with three men in showers, dressed only in towels – but this is comical, rather than sexy! Plenty of eye candy though, for anyone who likes that sort of thing ;-) ***Boogedy boogedy boogedy boogedy shooby doowop shebop*** There is a definite comedy element to the stage version of Grease, with many laugh out loud moments. Besides the obvious comedy characters such as Eugene, Jan and Roger, there are the over-emphasised winks and laughs of Danny and the high camp of Vince. Grease does have its serious moments and its issues, of course – lost love, failure, low self-esteem, lack of acceptance, a pregnancy scare, etc. – but overall, it is a show you will thoroughly enjoy and you will leave the theatre feeling very happy and on a musical high. ***It turned colder - that's where it ends*** We all thoroughly enjoyed it and even my son had no problems keeping still. It lasted around two hours and seemed just the right length; it certainly left us wanting more without feeling we had been at all short-changed.
***Tell me more, tell me more…*** The current tour continues until mid-August. Ring your nearest theatre for details, if you are interested. The rest of the dates are : Until 29th June - Fairfield, Croydon (020 0688 9291) July 1st to 6th – Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe (0149 451 2000) July 8th to 13th – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea (0170 235 1135) July 15th to 20th – North Wales Theatre, Llandudno (0149 287 2000) July 22nd to 27th – Pavillion Theatre, Bournemouth (0120 245 6456) July 29th to August 17th – Princess Theatre, Torquay (0870 241 4120) Check out the website too at www.greasethemusical.co.uk ***Tell me more, tell me more, How much dough did he spend?*** This one cost around £50 for one adult ticket and two children. It is an expensive trip out and not one we could afford to do too often, but then again, even going to the cinema is expensive these days and a trip to the theatre is much more of an experience. I would certainly recommend you go to see Grease if you get the opportunity to. We will be going again sometime in the future. ***Grease is the word*** After the show had finished, we waited outside the stage door, so the kids could meet the cast and get their programme autographed. Although a lot of the actors and actresses didn’t leave the theatre (as there was another show coming up shortly afterwards), the ones that did were very nice and chatted away happily. I’d like to thank Rebecca Trelease, David Rhys and Paul Berry for signing the programme and especially to Nina French and Chloe Bell, who gave freely of their time to chat away to us all and show they are really nice people off-stage, as well as being really talented on-stage.