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Monday, 1 May 2017

REVIEW: Grease at Sunderland Empire



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“Chang chang changitty chang sha-bop”

Grease
SunderlandEmpire
Until Saturday 6th May 2017

The Dress Circle was full for the musical voted “the number one musical of all time” in the Channel 4 chart of 100 Greatest Musicals. The tale of teenage love at Rydell High, with its memorable and catchy songs, continues to be a popular production after 46 years. Of course it is the 1978 film starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, which is in every fan’s collection, and is the benchmark which future stage productions will normally be compared. So how did the 2017 production, with Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Sandy and teen idol Tom Parker from The Wanted as Danny, compare?

Photo: Paul Coltas
The tale starts on the first day back at Rydell High.  Danny confesses to his mates, the T-Birds, that he had some summer loving with a girl at the beach during the Holidays. Meanwhile the new girl Sandy mentions meeting a new lad, called Danny, to the in-group of girls called the Pink Ladies.  Once the two teens realise that they’re in the same school there proceeds to be a catalogue of misunderstandings as they try to retain the respective reputations.

Photo: Paul Coltas
The Pink Ladies are marvellous. Frenchy (Rhiannon Chesterman) is charming, Marty (Lauren Atkins) is confident, Jan is lovelly , and Betty Rizzo is in control. Likewise the T-Birds are full of that adolescent charm and wrongly placed self-assurance that teens have. Special mention for this evening’s understudies Michael Cortez, as car-owner Kenickie, and Grant Thresh, as the experienced Sonny, who fitted in so well into their roles.

Photo: Paul Coltas
The first act had some funny touches from director Dave Gilmour and choreographer Arlene Phillips. In particular the 3 backing singers coming out of the showers raised a number of laughs. The two musical highlights of the show were both in the second act. Danielle Hope showed her fabulous singing skills during Hopelessly Devoted To You. She has real star quality.  The staging of Beauty School Dropout, with George Olney as the Teen angel, was much more satisfying than on the televised Grease Live show. 

I finished the show, not entirely convinced by Tom Parker’s vocals during a few of the songs. Perhaps it wasn’t his night however his acting skills made up for it.

Photo: Paul Coltas
This is a very slick production thanks, in part to the set design from Terry Parsons, and the lighting design from Mark Henderson. The costumes, designed by Andreane Neofitou, too were very much ‘of the period’ too. The combination of bright set and costumes worked well together. The dresses looked amazing during the big dance scenes.

Photo: Paul Coltas
The band is perched in the upper half of the set. They were given a chance to show off their skills at the start with a number of solos before hiding behind a screen for the bulk of the show. MD Griff Johnson kept a tight ship and the musicians didn’t put a foot wrong all night.

Photo: Paul Coltas
Overall Grease is a slick production that will please the fans of the show. The catchy songs and great dance routines performed in fabulous costumes make it a fun trip to the theatre.  

Review by Stephen Oliver

Website:
Photo: Paul Coltas
For more information, visit www.greasethemusical.co.uk
Please tag the account on twitter: @greasemusical

Tickets:
Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.



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