BWW Review: GREASE, Edinburgh Playhouse
There are many instances of successful movies being adapted for the stage, but for Grease the process took place in reverse. Opening on Broadway in 1972, the hugely successful film followed in the summer of 1978.
Two high-profile West End productions then came along in 1993 and 2007, and the lengthy runs of each must surely be attributed in no small way to the popularity of the iconic movie. The timeless story of Danny and Sandy, combined with a plethora of hit songs, makes Grease a popular choice for frequent revival.
It's a shame, therefore, that something doesn't quite feel right about this production. The set is small - particularly noticeable on the cavernous Edinburgh Playhouse stage. This, combined with a significant trimming of dialogue between musical numbers, leads to a couple of hours which almost feel like a semi-staged concert version, as the cast whizzes from one set-piece song to the next.
In general, these songs hit the mark - the audience visibly sits up when the opening notes of "Summer Nights", "You're The One That I Want" and "Hopelessly Devoted To You" are heard - but too often the show lacks the depth that previous productions have delivered.
Danielle Hope (Sandy) certainly cannot be faulted. She looks the part and sounds the part, and she actually seems more comfortable in this role than that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Of the Pink Ladies, Rhiannon Chesterman (Frenchy) stands out - a welcome return to Edinburgh following her superb guest appearance in the city's MGA Academy 10th Anniversary Concert. Favourable mentions too for Lauren Atkins (Marty) and Gabriella Williams (ubiquitous head cheerleader Patty Simcox).
For the most part, Tom Parker (Danny) is up to the vocal challenges of the role but, crucially, he lacks presence. Whilst it could be seen as unfair to compare, both he and Louisa Lytton (Rizzo) just seem poor substitutes for John Travolta and Stockard Channing.
The chemistry between Danny and Sandy, together with the darker characterisation of Rizzo, are two of Grease's most important elements, but both are sadly lacking here. "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" seem very rushed and as a result lose their effectiveness.
Other musical numbers fare better. "Those Magic Changes" is elevated to a memorable highlight, and "Greased Lightnin'" - whilst milked a bit - allows a rare moment in this production for the T-Birds to shine as a group.
Rather like The Sound of Music, no stage version of Grease can ever manage to emulate the brilliance of the film, but there have been better productions of Grease than this. One can't help feeling that less cuts to dialogue would have made the characterisations much more convincing and, as a result, the production much more satisfying.
Picture credit: Paul Coltas