Did lightning strike twice for Grease at the Dominion?
Grease is back in the West End – but what did the critics think?
Last night the West End's Dominion Theatre was hit with a little "Greased Lightnin'", as Nikolai Foster's production celebrated its official opening! But were the critics left hopelessly devoted to the new staging or did their chills fail to multiply this time around? Is Grease still the word? Let's find out...
Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage
"It may take diehard fans a while to adjust to the fact that this is not a stage spin-off of the movie, but they'll get sensational renditions of the much-loved songs, plus some less familiar, equally rousing numbers, and a terrific cast. Ultimately, this is a thunderously good evening out. 'Summer Nights' on Tottenham Court Road just got considerably hotter."
Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph
"First seen at Curve Leicester, in 2016, but revamped after several tours for its run at the Dominion – which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the show's Broadway premiere – Nikolai Foster's revival is touted as a return to the unruly, uncouth spirit of the original productions. Though a handful of seldom-heard numbers have been included this time, there's only a modest sprinkling of added grit. There's no spitting and swearing, for instance, a feature of the initial run in Chicago.
"What the evening offers in spades, though, is a terrific sense of what it means to be part of a posse, which was the instigating impulse half a century ago; restless and raunchy, these hormonal characters take ownership of the theatrical space much like they're taking ownership of their lives, with a put-on swagger that masks all manner of insecurities."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
"What can you reasonably ask for from this latest revival of the high-school musical Grease as it arrives in the West End? You surely want leather-jacketed, cheerleader-outfitted, teen-jiving spectacle. You want a sense of nostalgia — for the 1959 setting or, more likely, for the 1978 John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John film. You want the songs you love: most of them from the original 1971 stage show, some of the best of them ("Hopelessly Devoted to You", "You're the One That I Want", Barry Gibb's title tune) patched in from the film.
"All of this Nikolai Foster's revival serves up with skill. It's highly professional. And if that sounds like damning with faint praise, well, yes, but there are some real pleasures in here too. When the huge cast start pivoting around the huge stage, Arlene Phillips's choreography offers some thrills. Once or twice — as Olivia Moore takes centre stage, say, to sing good-girl Sandy's impassioned lament "Hopelessly Devoted to You" — it simply soars. And the headlining cameo artist, Peter Andre, is not bad at all. He has his manic episodes in the first half as the DJ Vince Fontaine, then offers a certain self-mocking élan in the second as he steps into the action in a leopard-print tuxedo or puts wings on his back as the Teen Angel."
Anya Ryan, The Stage
"So, does it work? Well, Grease's hopeless devotees will not be disappointed. The central girl-meets-boy high-school love story remains intact. All the joy of "Summer Nights" comes rushing back with the unmistakable first notes from the orchestra pit. The dance numbers, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, are as hip-thrusting and hand-jiving as ever. But the truly affecting moments come with Foster's considered directorial choices. As Olivia Moore begins pondering her heartbreak in a flawless delivery of "Hopelessly Devoted to You", she watches, sidelined, as Danny slow-dances with another girl. And in her spats with the acidic Rizzo – a wonderfully cruel Jocasta Almgill – Moore rises to become her equal. This Sandy can hold her own."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"Ultimately Grease is still too lucrative a property to be entrusted to a director liable to go nuts with it. Foster has done his best to give it an era-appropriate overhaul, but that's balanced against the need to fill a 2,000-capacity theatre for six months with a mainstream audience. The result isn't totally successful. But it's not a dud either. To quote the song – it's got style, it's got meaning."
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
"Grim is the word. This version of the beloved 50s-set high school musical has a hard carapace of professionalism but underneath it's colourless, charmless, and emptily energetic. The love story of bad boy Danny and goody two-shoes Sandy is insipid, and swamped by a tide of teen-drama clichés. The familiar songs still stand up, but only a few of the big numbers – "Greased Lightnin'", "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Hand Jive" – have real vocal power or choreographic verve.
"I love Grease and had one of the most enjoyable interviews of my journalistic career with its surviving creator Jim Jacobs before the 1993 Dominion production, but ooh, ooh, ooh, this isn't the one that I want."
Sam Marlowe, iNews
"Colin Richmond's functional designs set the scene with bleachers, lockers, lunch tables and gym bars, overlooked by a DJ booth where Andre's Vince spins his discs and his patter. He needs a touch of sleaze: for all his big quiff and leopard print, he's one bland rock'n'roller, daddio. His sparkly pink-winged Teen Angel could do with more campy wit too, presiding over a heavenly chorus of mincing beauticians wielding hairdryers and combs. If Andre gets away with it, it's purely thanks to his familiar unassuming appeal.
"What surrounds him is, at best, competent, with hit and miss performances and variable singing. Arlene Phillips's choreography springs few surprises: Dan Partridge's Danny and his greaser gang swagger and pelvic thrust, Olivia Moore's Sandy and the girls skip, twirl and flounce; "Hand Jive" at the bop is an athletic high point, and Katie Lee's Cha Cha a stand-out."
Tickets are on sale below.