The 1972 Broadway musical was immortalised by the 1978 film version, in which John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John played the high school sweethearts. The musical originally ran for six years in the West End, first at the Dominion and then at the Cambridge, returning to London for a short run back at the Dominion in 2001 and at the Victoria Palace in 2002/3. In between, it has toured the UK extensively, produced since 1993 by David Ian (a judge on Grease Is the Word) and Paul Nicholas, both of whom are also producing the upcoming Broadway production of Grease (opening 19 August), again featuring leads cast by public vote via reality TV.
The London production of Grease - which has book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey - is directed by David Gilmore and choreographed by Arlene Phillips. The new West End also features How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?’s Siobhan Dillon (as Patty Simcox), Sean Mulligan (Kenickie), Jayde Westaby (Rizzo), Lee Martin (Doody), Bennett Andrews (Sonny), Laurie Scarth (Jan), Charlie Cameron (Marty), Alana Phillips (Frenchy) and Jason Capewell (Vince / Teen Angel).
Unfortunately, while the critical response was positive for How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?’s Connie Fisher last year and Lee Mead last month, it was third time unlucky in the reality TV stakes for Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden. While some credited Bayne for his energetic dancing and McFadden for her requisite Sandy wholesomeness, first night critics deemed that neither had sufficient charisma to “hold the stage” for an evening. They weren’t helped by a “too old” supporting cast, “uninspired” choreography and a generally “lacklustre” production. Several reviewers used the disappointment of Grease as an opportunity to call for an end of reality TV casting, despite the fact that How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? second runner-up Siobhan Dillon did win some warm notices for her “endearing” turn as cheerleader Patty.
- by Tom Atkins