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Dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and get ready for the most fun-filled high-octane rock’n’roll party of them all.
Grease is the original high-school musical, featuring all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie, including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’.
The cast includes singer Peter Andre and Ore Oduba who both play Teen Angel in selected performances at the Hippodrome (check the theatre’s website for full details).
“The character of The Fonz in the TV series Happy Days is definitely my rebellious ’50s inspiration for this part,” explained Peter in a recent interview with What’s On. “The Fonz was a legend, and he and Grease’s lead male character, Danny Zuko, brought about that iconic style of blue jeans, white t-shirt and leather jacket. Those rockabilly vibes are definitely something I’ll be thinking about during my performance!”
Evenings 7.30pm plus 2pm matinee on Wednesday & 2.30pm Saturday
Gritty and glamorous, Grease is one of the most iconic shows of the 20th century.
Producer Colin Ingram insists that this new production will refresh and revive the hit musical, keeping it ‘fresh, relevant, vibrant and young’. What makes this version different is that it’s more in keeping with the original Broadway production written by Jim Jacobs and Gordon Casey, featuring songs never before heard in any staging of Grease in the UK.
‘Growing up in Australia, I remember when the film came out and I went to see it in the cinema at least 15 times,’ explains Peter Andre, who plays Teen Angel. “I loved it! Then I had it on VHS. It was such an iconic film. I always had this dream of going back to the 1950s, like when people say if you had a time machine and could go back to any era, where would you go. The ’50s would always be my answer. I think there’s something about that era. I loved watching Grease and was desperate to be a part of it, so when the opportunity came up to play Teen Angel, I was delighted.”
So where does Peter get his inspiration for the role: “The Fonz is definitely my rebellious ’50s inspiration for this part. The Fonz was a legend, and he and Danny Zuko brought about that iconic style of blue jeans, white t-shirt and leather jacket. Those rockabilly vibes are definitely something I’ll be thinking about during my performance. I remember at school we all loved to dress like that.”
Peter’s father and children have also influenced him in preparing to play Teen Angel: “My father was always there to give me the best advice when I was starting out in my career. When I was offered a recording deal live on television when I was 16, I was the happiest person alive, but my dad insisted I finish school first. I was upset because I thought they might change their mind if they had to wait for me. But I’m really grateful for that advice now, and it’s something that I want to pass onto my kids. My kids ask me why they have to go to school when I didn’t get where I did in my career directly from studying. But I always insist that school is the basis for everything, for all learning about life. I guess that’s also why the role of Teen Angel appeals to me so much, because he appears to Frenchy to encourage her not to drop out of school.”
The new production is blessed with the creative input of renowned choreographer Arlene Phillips. Peter explains what this means for Teen Angel: “I’ve been told that this role is Teen Angel with a twist… and I’m just about as much in the dark with that right now as the audiences will be when they arrive.
“Teen Angel is such an iconic part of the Grease film, but they definitely plan to make that scene a much bigger and better part of this production. With Arlene Phillips at the helm, I think everything will be fabulous. She’s talking about making the moves more contemporary, but also going back and looking at the original Broadway production and the dancing from the ’50s itself. There have been rumours that I will be suspended in some way to fly in, in true Teen Angel style, but I haven’t told them yet that I’m scared of heights! I’m not into sky diving or bungee jumping or anything like that…”
Despite focusing on his extensive music career, Peter’s love of theatre really shines through: “I think theatre is the root of all performance. You look at some of the A-list Hollywood actors and they either start out in theatre or return to it later on. Theatre is where performance starts and where it ends: it’s truly the root of it all. I did Thriller in the West End for the Prince’s Trust, and there’s talk of me doing other stage shows as well. Unfortunately, it’s the commitment and long amount of time spent touring that makes theatre difficult for me, but I can do a few bits here and there, which is great, and I’m really looking forward to Grease.
“The show is going to be electrifyin’! The visuals, lights, costumes, acting, singing and dancing - it’s truly going to dazzle!”
Grease The Musical has a history of making stars of its actors. John Travolta himself started out in the original Broadway production before becoming a huge movie star.
Taking on the role of Danny Zuko in this latest version is Dan Partridge: “When you go into this industry as a performer, especially in times where you don’t have so much success, to make a living out of this is an absolute dream come true,” says Dan. “In terms of aspirations, I always want to go higher and further; to go into film and television. The sky’s the limit. Like Peter Andre says, you’ve got to climb that mountain and turn ‘impossible’ into ‘I’m possible’.
“What’s so exciting about this new production is that it has all the iconic songs and everything that audiences love about Grease, alongside the fact that it’s a brand new production. The script has been improved, so that we have a bit more of the historical context in there, which is what makes it grittier.
There’s unbelievable casting, especially with Peter Andre, even if he does make lots of terrible dad-jokes! Then, on top of that, Arlene Phillips choreographs it. There really are some incredible household names on board with this new production.”
Starring alongside Dan is newbie Martha Kirby…
“It’s an honour to be making my professional debut as Sandy,” she says. “To fulfill this dream role at such an early stage in my career is mental - scary but also very exciting. I’m really interested to play Sandy in my own way and challenge the stereotype of what the character can be. I think I’m slightly punchier than the traditional Sandy, so I’d like to bring some of my own personality and experience to the role. With this new UK tour and production, it just seems like the right time to bring something new.”
So what are Martha’s hopes for her career?
“Gosh, I’m just happy I’ve even got this far! My aspirations are to find fulfillment in whatever I do. Obviously there are roles I’d love to play and shows I’d love to do, like Grease, but I just want to feel like I’m applying myself creatively in anything that I put my mind to. So whether that’s going into teaching for a bit after Grease or going on to do more performing, I just want to do my best in whatever the next opportunity happens to be.”
Grease The Musical shows at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday 13 to Saturday 24 August, with Peter Andre playing Teen Angel from 13 to 17 and 21 to 22 August only.
By Lauren Cole
Grease is probably the most iconic musical of all time. It has also been voted as the ‘best’ musical of all time on various polls. Whilst the jury is still out on that one, both the film and stage production do undeniably have a special something that everyone latches on to.
The current UK tour is a new Curve production; a venue who notoriously churn out excellent quality theatre. The notion of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ is relevant here and Director Nikolai Foster has respectfully created this new production with iconic moments in tact but with a fresh eye.
Colin Richmond’s set design dominates the Hippodrome stage and is reminiscent of a school gym. There is excellent use of mobile staircases and whilst it occasionally felt chaotic, the scene transitions are extremely smooth. His costumes are perfectly of the era but my only question was why the T-Birds are now the Burger Palace Boys, emblazoned on the reverse of the guy’s leather jackets?! The lighting by Guy Hoare complements the action well and is able to be both subtle and showy on different occasions.
The eight-piece band, led by Neil MacDonald, are located on a high platform at the back of stage left, with some musicians being seen and others tucked away offstage. I greatly appreciated the fresh arrangements of certain musical numbers as it felt more current. In actual fact, the songs that didn’t make the film are more standout in the production overall such as ‘Mooning’ and ‘Freddie, My Love’.
The legendary Arlene Phillips’ choreography is the strongest element of the production with the cast delivering the intricate moves with high energy and skill. The show didn’t really get going until ‘Greased Lightning’ where Phillips brings it to life. The predominantly young company are exceptional dancers and it appears this criterion has been held above all others when casting.
Whilst Foster has done a good job with a very busy production, there are certain moments that need more attention. The relationship between Danny and Sandy is very haphazard and whilst they are on and off in the film, it appears increasingly erratic here. In actual fact, Danny and Sandy do not appear to be key characters in this production, which is bizarre. Furthermore, Sandy’s transformation should be THE moment but it doesn’t have the impact it should.
Martha Kirby makes an excellent Sandy with her rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ being a real show highlight, yet she is greatly underused in the show based on her clear capabilities. Unfortunately I do feel Dan Partridge has been miscast as Danny. He is a worthy addition to the ‘Burger Palace Boys’ but perhaps would be better suited to an alternative role. He plays Danny as a bit of a cliché and brings nothing of his own to the table. He should ooze sex appeal but sadly this falls a little short.
There is fantastic support provided by other members of the company, notably Louis Gaunt (Kenickie), Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Rizzo), Natalie Woods (Jan) and Jessica Croll (Patty). Darren Bennett makes a wild and hilarious Vince Fontaine and Peter Andre as Teen Angel…. well, I’ll leave that there. The audience went crazy when he appeared on stage for his 3-minutes of fame. At least he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is good attribute in this instance!
The production has a great deal of promise but I do question certain directorial decisions. This is not the film on stage and if you come along knowing this, it will sit much better with you.
Grease plays at Birmingham Hippodrome until 24 August and tours the UK until October 2019.
*** Three stars
This UK touring show is the first new production of Grease The Musical for many a year.
And considering the success of its predecessors, Grease 2019 certainly has big shoes to fill.
The show returns to Ron Taft and Jim Jacobs’ original Broadway script from the early 1970s, putting the grit back into the hit musical via its depiction of working-class kids growing up on the Southside of 1950s Chicago.
So did this production fall short of the mark? Certainly not. Grease The Musical dazzled from the very first moment, boasting all the rock’n’roll energy and high school rough-and-tumble you’d expect from the show. And yes, it’s so much grittier that, in my opinion, it offers plenty more to enjoy than even the classic Paramount movie version from 1978.
Still liberally peppered with all the show’s much-loved hits, Grease 2019 also includes a selection of unfamiliar songs from the original Broadway version.
This production is a true rollercoaster ride. One minute you’re singing, dancing and laughing along with the cast; the next, the characters’ daily battles in 1950s Chicago hit you like a freight train, bringing you straight back down to earth.
Particularly poignant moments during the show include Danny’s song, How Big I’m Gonna Be - sung in response to Sandy taunting him for never having achieved anything worthwhile - and the two clashes between Sandy and outspoken Pink Lady Rizzo.
What strikes me most about this version of Grease, though - more so than any other I’ve seen - is the tension between Sandy and the other characters. There’s a palpable rift there that speaks volumes about the socioeconomic divide between her and her working-class fellow students.
Sandy is presented not only as an outcast to be pitied but also an antagonist - aspects of the character I’ve never encountered before. Martha Kirby plays her as strong, defiant and complex; no longer just a pretty ‘rich girl’ falling for a guy from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. This version of Sandy gives as good as she gets, as she struggles with her ‘good girl’ persona and the sexual awakening she experiences through meeting Danny.
Sandy is Martha Kirby’s first professional role, but you never would’ve guessed. She’s certainly making a big impression on this tour. And she must have one heck of a set of pipes on her too, belting out Sandy’s ballads and solo parts in other songs like there’s no tomorrow (and without a single bum note, to boot). Her musical talent and stage presence is so truly astounding that I have a feeling ‘stealing the show’ is going to become Martha’s forte.
Brilliantly choreographed by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips, Grease The Musical is slick, sublime and simply divine. The production definitely exceeded my already high expectations. Indeed, I didn’t have even the tiniest quibble with the performance last night - well, except maybe the fact that I could hardly hear Peter Andre as Teen Angel due to all the excited whooping and screaming coming from the audience. He’s the one that they want, oo-oo-oo, honey...
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