BWW Reviews: GREASE, New Wimbledon Theatre, October 15 2012
They may have been the oldest teenagers in town, but John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John earned immortality starring in Grease in 1978. For millions asked to name their favourite musical, Grease is, er...the one that they want, and a packed house on a Monday night in Wimbledon proved it, revelling in the timeless tale of boy meets girl. And lots and lots of nostalgic pop.
This touring version of Grease retains some of the early 70s rawness of the original, but the hit songs and the sunny storyline of the film have been grafted on - and don't the crowd love it! Opening with the title number (pulsating disco-pop from the mid-70s high water mark of Barry Gibb's songwriting), we're soon into the wit and hooks of "Summer Nights" and wallowing in the thought of "Greased Lightnin'", "Sandy" and "Hopelessly Devoted To You" still to come. But this is no jukebox musical, as the original songs like "Beauty School Dropout" and the hard-edged "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" are still there, driving the action.
And there's plenty of action to drive, from the T-Birds conversion of their convertible to the Pink Ladies' pajama party and the the dance competition in the gym. Cheerleaders cavort, a senorita cha-cha-chas while giving the finger to anyone who wants it (or not) and the boys strut and smoke. There's just a hint of gang violence and a sleazy DJ ogling the girls, but this isn't Play for Today - it's Grease and everyone loves it!
Danny Bayne and Carina Gillespie as John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski look the part and, if Mr Bayne isn't a great dancer, he can certainly time a gag and chuckle like Muttley. Standout of the guys and gals hanging out with the pair is Kate Somerset How who nails Rizzo's big number with belt and pathos (not the easiest combination to pull off). And Russell Grant (yes, that Russell Grant) pitches up like Janet Webb on the Morecambe and Wise to steal the show, the theatre and the All-England Club as well if he could reach it, as Teen Angel dispensing wisdom (appropriately) from the heavens. The Strictly work paid off though - he moves well.
So Grease then - like the stuff after which it is named, it does what it says on the tin.