Grease may be 'the word' but it certainly isn't a great musical at least in the form currently touring. When I got home from the theatre, I took the time to reach for my copy of the original script and the full scope of the 'reshaping' that had been undertaken in preparing this version.
It is one of the most vapid pieces of theatre I have had the misfortune to see.
I have few complaints over the actual performances. Overall, they are slick, confident and entertaining. It is the actual material that is weak, misogynistic, under-characterised and without any depth.
What has clearly happened is that the original script has been replaced by an attempt to recreate the film on stage. Whilst the film has many plus points, it does not have some of the charm of the stage version (as originally intended).
The production is big on spectacle – with lots of fancy lights and pyrotechnics and a decent set and costumes. There is also no lack of energy with some very crisply delivered choreography. The band play with plenty of gusto. But herein lies another of the problems with the production – the sound balance.
Now there is no denying that the lyrics in Grease are somewhat banal – however they still need to be heard by the audience. As often happens in the New Theatre, the band is over-loud and the singers somewhat muted. So most of the singing was drowned out by the music and so we were deprived of the words. This may be a first night issue – but past experience indicates it might be a more systemic problem.
Of the performers, Richard Vincent (Doody) stands out – he has a bright, clear presence and a very pleasing voice. He really brought out an individuality to his character which sets him apart from his colleagues.
There is no denying that this is a crowd-pleaser. There were people on their feet cheering by the end of the show. However it is not what a good musical should (and can) be. It is pop-corn entertainment. Fun but empty.