📍 Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7AQ
🗓 Saturday 25th June 2022
THE ONE I'D RATHER HAVE MISSED!
As someone who has been a massive fan of this musical my whole life, I entered the Dominion full of excitement. Not only was I revisiting a favourite musical that I hadn't seen for a while, but it was back in it's grand and iconic London home.
You can probably guess by my rating and the title of this review that I was more than a little disappointed with this production. The reason for this blog and my reviews, other than to find an outlet for my writing, was to support theatre after the past tough few years. I didn't expect to be giving such a low rating to any production, let alone this one, but when I started this I promised myself that I would write honestly about what I thought.
This production did have positives so I will start with what I enjoyed about this show. Firstly the choreography by Arlene Phillips was sensational. I liked the way it wasn't necessarily what you'd expect but there were nods to the traditional choreography associated with Grease. The entire company danced flawlessly and with impeccable timing and skill. There is no doubt that this young company have talent.
Secondly the singing, for the most part, was great. I was particularly impressed with Jocasta Almgill as Rizzo and Olivia Moore as Sandy. During Almgill's rendition of There Are Worse Things I Could Do you could really feel every word she was singing. This was also the case when Moore performed Hopelessly Devoted To You. I would even go so far as to say that Moore is the best Sandy I have seen over the years as that's the part that usually disappoints me in a production of Grease.
Dan Partridge as Danny had a good voice but, somewhat surprisingly, the standout performance for me came from Peter Andre as Teen Angel. Teen Angel is a bit of a cameo role and often falls victim to stunt casting which I am not a huge fan of. I didn't believe that Andre would give me what I wanted from the character but I was wrong. With the production behind it, Beauty School Dropout was my favourite moment of the show by far. It's a bit of a seesaw song for me because depending on the production it's either my favourite or worst part of the show! Andre's trademark energy and stage presence had the audience going wild. I also enjoyed him in his role as Vince Fontaine.
The set and lighting design were also good and worked well with the production.
The final megamix had the entire audience up on their feet and there was a real party atmosphere in the theatre. Unfortunately, these positives weren't enough for me to get over the negatives of this production and I left the theatre feeling deflated and disappointed.
Firstly, I think that some of the decisions made around the production were made for nostalgic reasons, which actually had a negative impact on the production. Firstly the T-Birds had become the Burger Palace Boys. I understand why they did this as this was the original name for the group. The name T-Birds was introduced for the 1978 movie version. I didn't know this until afterwards so after spending nearly 40 years knowing the boys as the T-Birds I was confused about the switch in name. I also noticed that this effected the merchandising as there was merchandise for the Pink Ladies but none for the Burger Palace Boys. This may seem like something really small, but put together with the other negatives it helped to pull the production down for me.
I'm not sure if the other changes were artistic license or reverting back to the original production but one thing's for sure, the show felt very dated. I thought this very early on which I was not expecting. After recently seeing the revival of Oklahoma! at ther Young Vic which felt very fresh and modern, it's as if this production would have been okay in the 1970's but didn't really work for a modern day audience. I never thought that Grease would feel dated to me.
There seemed to be new songs added for no apparent reason, although I was happy to see the return of Freddy My Love which had been missing from the last few productions of Grease I had seen.
It seemed that the storyline had been messed around with a lot and many of the scenes and songs had changed place within the production. For me, this messed around too much with the story and I felt that they heavily relied on the fact that the audience knew the story and characters. If you didn't know the story, then for me Sandy's character arc made no sense at all.
There was also a storyline which built up to a big fight with a rival gang, which literally led to nothing! Again, was this in the very original production or were they trying to replicate a part of the film? Either way it was a big let down.
Because I felt the production was weak, the acting seemed very amateurish. I'm sure that the company are very accomplished actors, but at times I felt almost that I was watching a high school production rather than a West End show. Again, I feel this was more the production itself and the direction rather than the acting capabilities of the cast.
The only casting that felt wrong for me was Paul French as Kenickie. I felt his character was the least believable and he did not have a strong enough singing voice to lead Greased Lightning. He was however a fantastic dancer and I think overall that there was a lot more emphasis in this production on dancing than on anything else.
I can understand the relevance and nostalgia behind the show being in the Dominion, but I was sat in the stalls & there were a lot of empty seats. A lot more than I'd expect to see at a theatre, especially on a Saturday night. Because it's such a big theatre, it needs a show that is going to draw huge audiences & this production of Grease, even on a limited run, doesn't seem to be doing that.
I have to say that I left the theatre feeling very disappointed and wishing I'd gone to see something else, which is rare for me.
It's safe to say that I'd rather spend my Summer Nights at another theatre, watching a different show. With so many phenomenal shows currently playing in London, unfortunately this is certainly one I won't be returning to.
All these comments are obviously my personal opinion & I'm sure there will be people out there who disagree with what I've written, but I expect this is also true when I write a glowing review of a show. After all, the world would be a very boring place if we all liked the same things!
Grease is playing at the Dominion Theatre until Saturday 29th October and you can book tickets and get show information and merchandise by visiting the official website www.greasemusical.co.uk. For same day booking download the TodayTix app and grab rush tickets at great prices.
All views are my own & I pride myself on being honest & free from influence.