Review: Grease the Musical. Curve Leicester.

five star

By the ultra exciting finale of Leicester Curve’s ‘classy and energetic’ production of Grease the Musical, this terrifically directed and choreographed show, is undeniably the ‘one that the audience wants’ for their Curve Christmas offering this year. The audience leave the theatre on a great  Rydell High!

classy and energetic production of  Grease the Musical…

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Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s musical homage to the birth of the newly Rock & Rolling American teenager shows no sign of letting up in popularity. Director Nikolai Foster brings this multifaceted production to the wide main stage at Curve and it eases entertainingly and super smoothly from one brilliant scene to the next. This reviewer loves the fact that the Greased Lightening car is a knackered old banger and not a souped up space age babe magnet, as in the film. What teenager could possibly afford the film version? Whereas the old banger version is much more credible and makes sense of the notion of doing it up to be something more car sexy.

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Nikolai Foster’s production of Grease has a dramatic honesty running through it that offers many elements of stark reality to what could just be presented as a slushy USA love story with catchy tunes. Yes of course, we still have the classic story of a broken romance made good in Danny Zuko ( Dex Lee) and Sandy (Jessica Paul) but, in this sterling production, we also get a real sense of the 1950s proper aided by the literally central personage of DJ Vince Fontaine (a sparkling performance by Darren Bennett) and all the terrific professional cast.

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As out of sorts lovers Danny and Sandy Dex Lee and Jessica Paul offer up tender and believable performances. Both are vocally very strong and eloquent in their teenage frustrations and romantic yearnings. Dex Lee is both tremendously athletic in his body language and in his dancing and has plenty of gauche charm in the role. Jessica Paul takes her Sandy and runs with her; giving us much more than the simple notion of a teenage girl rebuffed. Her transformation scene in the second act is sensationally assured. Reviewers often say, for example, ‘fans of the film will not be disappointed’. In Jessica Paul’s case fans of the film might well forget the film entirely. What film? Indeed. Jessica Paul has a voice to die for and her acting gives Sandy a real lovable and sympathetic soul.

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Jessica Paul as Sandy Dumbrowski

The production as a whole is zinging with energy. Choreographer Nick Winston offers up much in dance pizazz and some vibrant hand jiving to die for. The dance sections (of which there are many) are especially authentic and the young cast excel in their execution. In a word they’re ‘Electrifying!’

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Yes indeedy, we at East Midlands Theatre recognise that that word ‘electrifying’ just cries out to be used as a solo word option to describe a great production of Grease the Musical. We have no shame in repeating the ‘electrifying’ word even if it is ‘Raining On Prom Night’. We live dangerously Daddyo!

Other sparkling performances are given by an earthy and sexy Djalenga Scott as Betty Rizzo, Patrick Harper as Teen Angel, Jonny Fines as, tough teenager with a heart, Kenicke and a very sweet Sophie Issacs as the ambitious wannabe beauty parlour assistant and very Pink Lady, Frenchy.

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Although we don’t see too much of Shobna Gulati as Miss Lynch in the first half, Gulati does come into her beguiling and quirky teacher own in the second act. She makes a moving speech about her character’s own teenage years and sings In My Day most effectively.

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Shobna Gulati as Miss Lynch

The whole Curve Grease ensemble are clearly totally committed (one might even say – totally devoted) to this most utterly splendid show.

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Of course, all the favourite Grease the Musical songs are here on stage and appreciated by this capacity audience on press night. The show opens with Grease Is The Word and Summer Nights, along the way the musical amuses with Freddy My Love then cranks up the pace with Greased Lightening and finishes the first half with the very catchy We Go Together.

Act two goes dance crazy and, before you know it, the audience are ecstatic for You’re The One That I Want and the finale reprise of We Go Together. Would you believe it? A fair few of the daring audience members are up on their feet and clapping and dancing along to the beat – the teenage rebels! Don’t they know the rules? Tell me more…

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Adding much to the atmosphere of Curve’s Grease the Musical is stage designer Colin Richmond’s totally inventive set design and superb lighting effects by lighting designer Guy Hoare. The musical directorship is in the über confident hands of musical director Neil MacDonald and the spot on sound design is courtesy of Sebastian Frost.

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Highly recommended! Curve is the Word! It’s got groove. It’s got meaning!

Grease the Musical runs until 21 Jan 2017.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

Grease Photo Credits: Manuel Harlan.

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