Note: The cast has changed since the writing of this review. For current cast details, please see the Grease listing entry. If you have seen the current cast and would like to share your views please go to the user reviews section.
How wrong can a person be? It's certainly true that Grease has done the rounds: premiered on Broadway in 1972, previously ran for six years in the West End, toured the UK (and the world) ceaselessly. And then there's the little issue of that film - enough said. The last time I saw the stage version was five years ago at the Cambridge Theatre, and to say it was beginning then to submit to fatigue is putting it politely. I was fully expecting that, now returned once again to the West End, David Gilmore's production must be near comatose.
But if Grease is tired, nobody has told this fabulous company, who - with their unbounded energy and enthusiasm - have made me remember what a tremendous, and tremendously fun, show this is.
Teenaged sweethearts Danny and Sandy remeet at Rydell High after a summer romance, but Danny jeopardises the relationship because he's afraid to be seen as attached and 'uncool', in front of his friends. Can either of them ditch their personas - supercool dude and goody-two-shoes cheerleader - to be with each other? I think you know the answer.
Circa 2002, the coup is in the casting. Leading from the front are Greg Kohout and Caroline Sheen, so assured as the star-crossed lovers that they'll make even the most die-hard film fans forget John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John have any claim to these roles. Both are immensely likeable, with beautiful singing voices, and Kohout simply oozes 'greaser' charisma. He's amazing.
In fact, I'm hopelessly devoted to this dashing Danny - and I'm pretty smitten too with Ben Forster's Doody and Daniel Boys' Roger, whose musical moments really are magical. Elsewhere, there's solid vocal support and gusto galore from Matthew Cutts' Kenickie, Louise Dearman's Jan and Dawn Spence's Rizzo.
By comparison with this quality of talent, pop pin-up Lee Latchford Evans (formerly of Steps) looks like something of an amateur in the glitzy cameo role of Teen Angel, even if his squealing fans don't seem to mind him missing the odd note or three. Still, he's got a nicely cheeky manner and helps to raise the temperature in the stalls.
In the hands of a confident cast, Arlene Phillips' hand-jiving, bee-bopping, toe-tapping choreography is spectacularly revitalised and the songs - "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightnin'", "We Go Together", "You're the One That I Want" - well, they're still infectious. (Note to fans: please don't sing along so loudly you drown out the on-stage talent - this is incredibly annoying - girl who sat behind me, you know who you are!)
The only thing that is looking tired and second-rate about Grease are the set designs by Terry Parsons, which are very flimsy, garish and worn around the edges. I advise you to turn a blind eye and enjoy the rest of this slicked-up delight.