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Grease Reviews

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songanddanceman2
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Grease Reviews#1
Posted: 8/9/07 at 7:42am
Grease


** Piccadilly Theatre, London

Michael Billington
Thursday August 9, 2007
The Guardian


If you want proof of the imaginative poverty of the West End today, you need look no further than Grease. It is not that the show is actively bad, but David Gilmore's 1993 production of this pastiche hymn to rock 'n roll is now getting its fifth London revival.

Its current prominence derives from yet another of those TV reality contests, Grease Is The Word, which, whatever the boost to the box-office, are an insult to the acting profession.

All that happens is that Danny and Sandy, having had a summer flirtation, finds themselves co-mates at Rydell high school. Danny, who hangs out with the pseudo-tough Burger Palace Boys, plays fast and loose with his old flame. Meanwhile Sandy, who is a stranger to sex, booze and cigarettes, is mocked by her own would-be sophisticated girl-group. When she finally dons a figure-hugging black outfit, love flourishes. The show's appeal lies in nostalgia for the 1950s: in particular, the pivotal moment when Elvis was galvanising popular music. But what is depressing is its lack of cultural curiosity about the period it depicts. Its teenage kids have nothing on their minds but sex, rock 'n roll and hot-rodding. You would never guess that this was the decade of The Catcher In The Rye.

Of course, there are always the Jacobs-Casey songs which the audience greets like old friends; and the best of them, including Summer Nights and You're The One That I Want have a certain parodic charm. But for me it is the Arlene Phillips dance-routines that alone give the show its spark. Greased Lightnin' sees the quiffed guys hurling themselves all over the bonnet of a custom-converted car. And the big number in the high-school gym, Born To Hand Jive, sees the circle-skirted girls being flung over the boys' heads and between their legs. As so often in musicals, I wished we could cut the cackle and just have an evening of undiluted dance.

But the focus, inevitably, is on the two winners of the TV-reality contest, right. Danny Bayne as the hero displays bags of energy and has one good moment when he puffs on a last fag before setting off on a track-race, but he doesn't possess the mocking insolence of John Travolta in the movie. As for Susan McFadden, she has all of Sandy's wholesomeness and sings prettily, but has a painfully limited range of physical expression: in her big ballad, Hopelessly Devoted To You, she expresses romantic sadness by pressing her palms to her stomach as if suffering from cramps. Only Jayde Westaby as the tart-tongued Rizzo and Charlie Cameron as a Monroe lookalike rise above the prevailing ordinariness.
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re: Grease Reviews#2
Posted: 8/9/07 at 7:48am
Grease: Under-sexed, under-done and under par (...but the first night audience simply loved it)
by NICHOLAS DE JONGH - Daily Mail, 9th August 2007

Comments Comments
How under-sexed, how under-done and under par I found director David Gilmore's attempt to put the brilliantine back into Grease!

Yet this famous high school musical, set in the Fifties when leather jackets were fresh fashion items, when girls in flashy cars at drive-in movies warded off kisses and clung to their virginity, was welcomed by firstnighters like a long-lost lover.

The wild reception surely owes plenty to the way it followed in the song and dance footsteps of The Sound Of Music and Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: prime-time TV viewers were asked to choose which performers should be awarded Grease's romantic lead roles.


Charisma in the word: Danny Bayne as Danny Zuko and Susan McFadden as Sandy were chosen by ITV viewers to star in the new production of Grease at London's Picadilly

This craze for turning the public into a nation of casting directors has already worked small wonders at the box office.

The trick, though, fares less well with Grease than it did with The Sound Of Music or Joseph.

Neither of the leads, a less than dynamic Danny Bayne as gangleader Danny Zuko and Susan McFadden as the girl for whom he falls but cannot pick up, display the singing and acting charisma required to galvanise this almost plotless musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

Gilmore's production,with neon-lit, basic sets that swing from high school to burger palace, proves no match for his 1993 production on which this is closely modelled.

Almost everything and everyone is now caught in caricature's grasp rather than garlanded in satire - from the posturing high school gang boys to the girls wearing ridiculously ornate party dresses.

They gabble like zombies, talk of little but sex, while doing little about it.

Even the boy-grabbing Rizzo, whom the outstanding cast-member, Jayde Westaby, makes first hard-edged and then vulnerable-in her finely delivered song, There Are Worse Things I could do, merely suffers a phantom pregnancy.

The words of the songs, from Shakin' At The High School Hop to Greased Lightnin' with boys dancing atop a silver car, tend to be regularly submerged by the small but overpowerful band.

These numbers may offer amusing pastiches of Fifties rock'n' roll and gentler pop, but I could not hear to tell.

Arlene Phillips's choreography had such sexy gusto in 1993. Now the dancing tends to be careful rather than dynamic.

Just once, in Beauty School Drop-Out, with a Busby Berkeley stairway to heaven, girls wearing white mortar boards and silk dresses, glittering hand mirrors focused on faces, does the staging betray flashes of fun and imagination.

As Danny Zuko, the high school gangleader who wears an Elvis, greasy quiff and a James Dean leather jacket, Bayne ought to project male cool and cockiness, with a touch of the bashful when he falls in love at first sight.

He needs to send waves of sex appeal lapping over Susan McFadden's new girl, Sandy Dumbrowski, who remains for most of the musical something of a Dumbroadski, as primly wholesome as Doris Day.

Bayne, always several, unfortunate centigrade above cool, looks a neat dancer but not much of a gang leader.

He makes little of Zuko's awkwardness in love, even when revealing his heart in song

McFadden's Sandy reveals a shrill singing voice and her attempts to play prim make her look elderly-confused.

When she finally shakes down her hair and slips into a sexy leotard the transformation smacks of silly fairy tale.

Is it not high time producers found real stars for musicals again?
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Updated On: 8/9/07 at 07:48 AM
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re: Grease Reviews#2
Posted: 8/9/07 at 7:52am
First Night: Grease, Piccadilly Theatre, London
Hymn to teenage hormones loses its soul to slick commercialism
By Paul Taylor
Published: 09 August 2007

You could argue that London's West End, already overrun by musicals, needs another tuner about as badly as Las Vegas needs another casino. And, apart from the cast, this revamped revival of Grease boasts essentially the same team responsible for the production which opened in 1993, ran for six years and only recently finished touring. It's been given another lease of (improved) life, of course, through the reality TV search for Danny and Sandy. Grease is the Word may have been defeated in its ratings battle with Any Dream Will Do, but it certainly seems to have acted as a pretty effective commercial. The show has taken £8m in advance bookings. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a Broadway production, with leads cast by a similar public voting method and sharing a producer in the shape of David Ian, is due to open later this month.

That's the unendearing twist to these reality TV competitions. To get the ratings they have to choose musicals that hardly need television exposure to be theatrical hits. The Sound of Music, Joseph and Grease are not exactly nail-biting commercial gambles, especially given that The Sound of Music is the only one of the three to be presented here in a production reconceived from scratch. It's good that these shows pull in people new to theatre; but it's less good that there isn't more spirit of adventure.

Admittedly, it's hard to resist the appeal of Grease - a hymn to teenage horniness, set in a parodic Seventies view of a cheekily tweaked B-movie-style Fifties high school. The excellent band deliver the joyously affectionate Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey rock'n'roll spoofs (here augmented by the additional songs from the 1978 movie) with terrific punch. But David Gilmore's production seems to have suffered from the Chinese Whispers syndrome. It's now at so many removes from any real truth about 1950s style that it's like a grotesque, hyperactive animated cartoon. The grittiness, charm and humanity of the piece have got lost in a slick, neon-lit, and soulless theatrical neverland.

What about the competition-winning leads? Is the power they're supplyin' electrifyin'? Not really. As chief greaser Danny, Danny Bayne exudes a certain sex appeal and he sings and dances with more than efficiency but the performance lacks the attractiveness of natural humour. When his Danny shifts from unguarded emotion to strutting macho defensiveness, you can always hear a kind of mechanical click. Though she can float a mean decorative falsetto in "Hopelessly Devoted To You", Susan McFadden doesn't muster much magic or bring out your protective instincts as the square virginal Sandy. But then there's not much individuality in the company as a whole and even the best moments feel dodgy. The actress playing black-sheep Rizzo looks old enough to be the Rydell High civics teacher and the rousing hand-jive-on-bleachers climax to the first half looks oddly out of period. With its vestigial, embarrassing plot, Grease comes over, in this high-energy, high-decibel but completely unaffecting production, as a jukebox masquerading as a musical.
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re: Grease Reviews#3
Posted: 8/9/07 at 7:57am
From The Times
August 9, 2007
Grease
Sam Marlowe at the Piccadilly Theatre, W1

Here we go again. Reality TV — in this case the ITV talent show Grease is The Word, by and large the loser in the Saturday night ratings war with BBC1’s search for Joseph, Any Dream Will Do — plucks fledgeling performers from obscurity and deposits them on the West End stage.

The lucky pair, Susan McFadden (sister of Westlife’s Brian) and Danny Bayne, were selected to play Sandy and Danny from thousands of hopefuls by an audience vote and a panel made up of the seasoned producer behind this stage show, David Ian, the choreographer Brian Friedman, Liza Minnelli’s ex-husband, the professional weirdo David Gest and, er, Sinitta, probably best known for her execrable 1980s Stock Aitken and Waterman singles output, of which the dire So Macho was a lowlight.

Like Connie Fisher, the Sound of Music star, McFadden and Bayne are unknowns, but they are drama-school trained. It is to be hoped that they turn out to have the stamina for a West End run; squeals and whoops of delight at first glimpse of the duo on the opening night suggest that audiences are clamouring to catch them in action.

Bayne and McFadden make their initial entrance on plinths either side of Terry Parsons’s neon-lit set, looking rather like two shop-window mannequins. It’s an accurate indication of what’s to come; though they sing nicely enough, they go on to give rather stiff performances. McFadden — small, pretty and somewhat simpering — seems unsure what to do with her hands; Bayne — beefy but bland — manages a certain cheeky charm once he warms up a bit, but there’s no real chemistry between them. What’s worse, they both signally lack sincerity and sex appeal.

To be fair, what surrounds them is not a great deal better: they are supported by a cast, in David Gilmore’s efficient but lacklustre production, of garishly coloured and totally flat cartoon characters.

Here they come, the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds, stalking out of a cloud of dry ice, some of them looking conspicuously too old, rather than too cool, for school. There’s Jayde Westaby’s belting, bitchy Rizzo, Alana Phillips as the bubble-head Frenchy, and torpedo-breasted bottle-blonde Marty (Charlie Cameron). Danny’s boys, meanwhile, include Sean Mulligan’s eye-catching but vocally limited Kenickie, Bennett Andrews as a rather too creepily lascivious Sonny and Richard Hardwick as the chubby joker Roger who has a penchant for baring his buttocks.

They all flounce and pose their way through Arlene Phillips’s uninspired and, on the whole, undemanding choreography. Despite a burst of camp athleticism to Greased Lightnin, when a souped-up Caddy turns up amid some half-hearted pyroctechnics, and some vigorous hand-jiving at the hop, it is disappointingly short on dazzle. At no point do we care one iota what becomes of any of them or their teen romances.

The perennial popularity of Randal Kleiser’s 1978 film, the familiarity of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s catchy score and the hoopla surrounding the ITV series have already proved enough to guarantee healthy advance ticket sales. And those who come expecting nothing more than a routine trot through well-loved material and a chance to see the two young competition winners in the flesh probably won’t be disappointed. It’s depressing that anyone should expect so little, but if reality TV is chewing gum for the eyes, for some this Grease will be bubble-gum fun — even if it is overstretched and losing its flavour.
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re: Grease Reviews#4
Posted: 8/9/07 at 8:01am
Grease.. loud is the word

By BILL HAGERTY
Sun Theatre Critic
August 09, 2007

COMMENT ON THIS STORY


IT was the creakiest of telly casting couches.

And, sadly, Grease at London’s Piccadilly Theatre offers little we haven’t seen before from the 50s US teens of Rydell High.

It’s not the fault of the couple voted into the leading roles on TV reality show Grease Is The Word.

Danny Bayne looks the part as Danny Zuko, even if compared to John Travolta he’s about as charismatic as soggy popcorn.

And Susan McFadden makes a super Sandy, sweet yet feisty — the sort of girl next door that could make you want to knock down the fence.

But despite a cast that gets 10 on 10 for trying, the production is predictable, pedestrian and painfully bereft of originality.

An eight-piece band with a decibel rating higher than a low-flying jet plays above the stage.

Grease just isn’t the word — but loud is.
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Bruce Memblagh!
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re: Grease Reviews#5
Posted: 8/9/07 at 1:20pm
Dreadful dreadful production but sadly possibly critic proof given the advance. This production and the cheap way the 2 insipid leads were cast continues to put the chav-appeal in the west end.
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re: Grease Reviews#6
Posted: 8/9/07 at 6:55pm
What a surprise.
This sounds like hell.
DannyZuko
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re: Grease Reviews#7
Posted: 8/9/07 at 7:36pm
They're just a bunch of haters.
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re: Grease Reviews#8
Posted: 8/10/07 at 6:31am
THE STAGE:

Grease

In the US in the fifties, teenager Sandy Dumbrowski folds under peer pressure and decides that the only way to win back her boyfriend Danny is to dress like a slut. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s affectionate pastiche on the wholesome beach movies of the period might not send out the best message, but it is done with such cracking musical numbers and a witty script that these things may be overlooked. The movie version of the stage show, with the introduction of new songs, has long been a classic and this production manages a neat hybrid of the two. Add to this heady mixture a reality TV search for a star and an enthusiastic young cast, and the result should be a familiar and fun night out at the theatre.

Sadly among all the hoopla, any hint of charm the original may have had is smothered by deafening orchestration, over-zealous direction, moments of toe-curling camp and a selection of accomplished but soulless karaoke tunes.

The performances here were bursting with enthusiasm and certainly for this production David Ian and the general public have made good choices in Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden as Danny and Sandy. Bayne moves expertly to Arlene Phillips’ tightly choreographed routines, and McFadden makes for a feisty Sandy, but neither appear to have been allowed to experiment with a tried and tested formula, resulting in numbers that sound great but achieve little else. Sean Mulligan makes for a strong and raunchy Kenickie opposite Jayde Westaby’s hard-nosed Rizzo. Peeking their heads above the melee are Laurie Scarth as a rather delightful Jan, Charlie Cameron, camping it up as the teenage vamp, Marty, and Lee Martin as the shy Doody. It was nice to see David Ian’s favourite Maria Von-Trapp, Siobhan Dillon, making a rather wonderful baton-twirling Patti Simcox, a much meatier role in the stage production.

There is an element of smug self-satisfaction about this production that seriously needs addressing, and it has nothing to do with the cast or reality television. By all means, give the West End new stars via an audience vote, but don’t drop them into overworked, second-hand shows like this.
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re: Grease Reviews#9
Posted: 8/10/07 at 8:47am
GREASE was never a great show to begin with. I like to see it stripped back to what it was in 1972 when it opened Off Broadway. A show that was a little darker and grittier, a little less silver and hot pink.
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re: Grease Reviews#10
Posted: 8/11/07 at 6:05am
What an absolute waste of a fantastic musical theatre house. Makes me sooooo angry.
A young actress with Noel coward after a dreadful opening night performance said to him 'Well, i knew my lines backwards this morning!'' Noels fast reply was ''Yes dear, and thats exactly how you said them tonight'!'
Updated On: 8/11/07 at 06:05 AM
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re: Grease Reviews#11
Posted: 8/11/07 at 9:38am
I really miss 'Caroline, Or Change' and 'Sunday In The Park With George'. ;_;
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re: Grease Reviews#12
Posted: 8/12/07 at 3:22pm
its my idea of hell sitting through 2 hrs+ of grease - even walking past the theatre with its florescent tubing makes me want to vomit!
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