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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: COOL RIDER @ THE LONDON PALLADIUM

🎭 Cool Rider  

📍 The London Palladium, 8 Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TF                 

🗓 Sunday 14th April 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR


Cool Rider returned to London for one night only after a 10 year hiatus this weekend and absolutely blew the roof off the Palladium in an electrifying night that will stay with me for a very long time.


Grease 2 is undeniably THE guilty pleasure movie of my life, and to this day it has a huge cult following. On Sunday over 2,000 fans of the movie congregated under one roof to bathe in joyous nostalgia as the movie was brought dazzlingly to life. Half parody, half love letter, Cool Rider was a riotous look back at the movie with every song from the glorious soundtrack as well as many of the iconic lines.


It is genuinely hard to describe the atmosphere in the theatre that night. I spend a lot of time in theatres up and down the country and I have never experienced anything quite like it before. From the moment the first note was played, the entire auditorium erupted in shared ecstasy and the momentum of the cast or the audience never let up. 



If you’re unfamiliar with Grease 2 (where have you been for the past 40 years?), the story is almost the reverse of the original movie, when British boy Michael joins the high school and falls in love with Stephanie, the leader of the Pink Ladies. Of course, she’s not interested in a boy-next-door type. All she wants in a Cool Rider - a devil in skin tight leather! Michael transforms himself into a mysterious biker who sweeps Stephanie off her feet, much to the annoyance of the T-Birds. What will happen when Michael reveals himself?


Aaron Sidwell and Ashleigh Gray reprised their roles of Michael and Stephanie as they led the talented company through the story. Gray’s rendition of the title song Cool Rider created utter euphoria as she performed on top of a step ladder, which is an iconic moment in the movie. Sidwell displayed great versatility as we saw him transition from the bookish boy into the sexy and enigmatic leather-clad biker boy. He had utter charm and likability and was heartwarming as he performed Charades.



Maxwell Caulfield, who played the role of Michael in the film, created a frenzy as he appeared as Mr Stuart, opening Act 2 with fan-favourite Reproduction. He also had some of the best lines of the night, such as “It’s me” when Michael revealed himself, which caused absolute pandemonium.


Kitty Scott-Claus was hilarious as The French One, picking plot holes in the story in a rampantly vivacious performance. In fact there was no weak link in the company whatsoever, with superstar vocal turns from Hannah Levane, Debbie Karup, Courtney Bowman and Harry Francis. This is one of the strongest line-ups I have seen for a long time.


The sheer exhilaration in the theatre was unparalleled as this concert staging invited the audience to sing along and participate from the start. Collectively reciting the Pink Pledge, waving our arms, singing the lyrics and dancing in our seats, we severely tested the integrity of the structure of the building!



The choreography, lighting design and costuming were all fantastic, and the live band on stage were incredible. The entire company had obviously worked hard to bring this highly polished performance to the stage. When this concert was first staged in 2014 it led to a limited West End run and I’m hopeful it will happen again as I want to Turn Back The Hands Of Time because this is an experience I want to live again and again. So to the powers that be, please Do It For Our Country and give this show a longer run.


This was my 46th theatre visit of 2024, and was hands down my favourite of the year. I'm still on a high and think I will be for a long time yet.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer



CAST LIST:

Ashleigh Gray as Stephanie; Aaron Sidwell as Michael; Maxwell Caulfield as Mr Stuart; Kitty Scott-Claus as The French One; Debbie Kurup as Ms Mason; Tom Senior as Johnny; Hannah Levane as Paulette; Jacob Fowler as Louis; Courtney Bowman as Sharon; Lucinda Lawrence as Rhonda; Kyle Cox as Goose; Harry Francis as Davey; Rhys Owen as Nun

Ensemble - Selena Barron; Pamela Blair; Angus Good; David McIntosh; Ashley-Jordon Packer; Emily Ann Potter


RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 55 minutes, including interval



Image credits: Mark Senior

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