Grease was last seen in London in September 1999 when it closed at the Cambridge Theatre (where it transferred from the Dominion) after six successful years in the West End.
In the new production, Craig Urbani plays the lead role of Danny Zuko. Urbani began his theatrical career in his native South Africa in 1992, starring in The Rocky Horror Show. But he first came to wider recognition alongside Robert Mitchum and Jeff Fahey in the 1993 movie Women of Desire, and the TV series Tropical Heat. In the West End, Urbani played the lead in Buddy for two years before touring the UK with Fame and the musical Happy Days. Back in South Africa, he played Zuko for the first time in the biggest-ever stadium production of Grease.
Commenting on his return to London, Urbani says: "It is such an invigorating part, Grease was the ultimate musical when I was growing up and its songs are just classics. It has all the right ingredients as a musical and this is what makes it as appealing today. Most of all, you can't go wrong with a bit of leather, fast cars and lots of brylcream."
The world theatrical premiere of Grease came on Broadway in 1972, with numerous subsequent stage versions following in its wake. In 1979, it became the longest-running show in Broadway history at the time, with the movie version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, becoming one of the highest earners ever made. Co-creators Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey based their notion on music from the late 1950s and characters from a lost age of rock 'n' roll. In 1971, they tried their concept out in a Chicago experimental theatre, with the title derived from the 1950s penchant for slick hair and fast food.
Featured hit songs include the title track, "You're the One That I Want", "Summer Lovin'", "Greased Lightning", "Sandy" and the title song. Urbani is following in the footsteps of other major names to play Danny, including Richard Gere, Luke Goss and Craig McLachlan.
Following the London dates, the current tour travels to Dartford, Swansea, Norwich, Sunderland, Birmingham and Leicester. Further dates, continuing into 2002, are expected to follow in due course.
- by Gareth Thompson