1950s Americana. Bring me your dweebs, your Gidgets and your bombshells and trade them in for the hips and squares of David Gilmore's Grease, a predictable rehash of forty years worth of summer loving.
Let's break one of the founding laws of chemistry: concentration is dilution. That much this production proves. The more patches stitched onto the T-Birds' leather jackets, the less the actors behind the white teeth can find the roles anew. As a consequence, the cast trades on impressions of whichever stereotypes Travolta and co. embodied in their eternally popular film musical. Leading lovers Danny Bayne and Carina Gillespie are fine as teenagers Danny and Sandy but lack the vital chemistry in this rather sanitised telling of their hopeless devotion.
Nonetheless, the twenty-six strong ensemble and punchy band work hard to entertain the crowd. Their execution of Arlene Phillips' choreography, a corrupted form of jive which softens the Fonzie with extensions of Fosse, is energetic and spirited. Derek Rogers and Laura Wilson find some rare individuality and genuine pluck in kooky courtship number, "Mooning", freed by the overlordship of expectation and conformity which chains the more recognisable songs in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's songbook.
Yes, it's seen as pedantic and unpopular to ask that revivals be revisionist but surely a decent show with a decent jukebox of songs deserves a little more thought than it is afforded here. Perhaps we ought to blame Hairspray for asking us to view the era with satire and suspicion, or Dreamboats and Petticoats for finding the fifties afresh, and challenge producers to create something more meaningful.
Methinks it's time for a rethink. This production rifles through the bags of washing of previous stagings and leaves these characters as little more than toothless four year olds who can drive Cadillacs. As it stands, Grease is, and shall perhaps always remain, ancient.