Grease - Not Quite as Slick
Phil Hopkins, Travel & Arts Correspondent
Grease is a wonderfully joyous and uplifting musical, it is touring productions that occasionally sully its reputation.
Last night as hundreds rammed into Bradford's Alhambra for an annual dose of T Birds and Pink Ladies - the 1950's 'uniforms' were clearly evident - there was a huge air of expectation.
People claim to be thrilled by all things new, however, deep down they love to know what's coming and Grease never fails to deliver - or does it?
This musical - or anything falling into the 'cult' genre like Rocky Horror or Mamma Mia - must be cock on otherwise punters, many of whom are as close to the score and lib as the players themselves, will know instantly if they are short changed.
Last night the audience was massively entertained, no doubt, but there were murmurs, you only needed to listen in the bar.
Casting Director Debbie O'Brien got it wrong placing former boy band member, Tom Parker, in the lead 'Travolta' role as Danny. It was clear that he had not had a theatre training and was outclassed by those around him including his leading lady Danielle Hope, a confident Sandy.
Parker did not have clean dance lines - make your arms stronger darling - and it was as if he didn't know where to look (up to the Gods darling). Stage presence, experience and training were absent. When will casting directors learn that boy band status is not enough to carry a full musical show; there has to be more than fame.
Tom Senior (Kenickie) or Michael Gortez (Sonny) should have been Danny.
They played their roles with confidence and, quite honestly, Senior was a dead ringer for Travolta and physically fit the bill. What was the casting director thinking putting the diminutive Parker in the lead role? He's sold hundreds of thousands of records of course. How silly of me.
Louise Lytton as Rizzo, the brash good-time-girl at the head of the Pink Ladies, sang out of tune but was a confident actress and could move well. Two out of three ain't bad but is that enough when people are spending upwards of £30 on a ticket to a professional touring show? If it was voice strain where was the understudy?
Great high kicks from Natasha Mould - I am trying to book her for my next birthday bash but she is currently unaware of her availability - and top marks to Callum Evans as classroom geek Eugene, quality always stands out, not forgetting the wonderfully talented Ryan Heenan as Doody; great voice, great moves. Good stuff comes in small packages and he is a case in point.
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Jacobs and Casey gave us some wonderful characters when they first penned this musical nearly half a century ago, however, casting directors - and subsequent casts - need to be aware that the public know this show intimately.
If anyone is slightly off key, left of centre, too tall or too small, they will know instantly because they have been in the auditorium, the singalongs and the movies every year for at least a decade. The money men need to be careful not to insult audiences in their haste to charge huge ticket prices in the false belief that they will get away with 93%.
It was a fun, colourful and largely entertaining show but, last night's performance was not top dollar although producers Paul Nicholas and David Jan, will, no doubt, still be checking their profit and loss account come March 31st, 2018!
Until Saturday (14th October 2017)
Grease - Not Quite as Slick, 10th October 2017, 12:16 PM