REVIEW: Grease, Newcastle Theatre Royal, until Saturday, October 21

A scene from Grease. Picture by Paul Coltas.

Grease was the word on everyone's lips as they emerged from the Theatre Royal Newcastle after the opening night of the popular feelgood musical yesterday.

It had been a high-energy blast from the past, with a raft of familiar, fun songs that simply craved audience participation - Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin' and Hopelessly Devoted to You to name but four from an amazing soundtrack.

The UK touring version of this original high school musical, complete with cheerleaders, denim, teenage angst, romance and a fair dollop of sexual innuendo had landed for a week in the North East.

There can't be many people who have not seen at least part of the iconic 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as Rydell High School students Danny and Sandy in the rock 'n' roll era of the late 1950s - even if it's just the final fairground scene and the huge international hit, You're The One That I Want.

So it will always be an immensely hard act to follow for anyone stepping into the shoes of Danny and Sandy. The unenviable task fell to Tom Parker, singer with boy band The Wanted, and Danielle Hope, who won the BBC's Over The Rainbow talent show to land the part of Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz opposite Michael Crawford.

Both handled the roles brilliantly, giving them their own stamp while remaining true to the characters. Their voices were strong and acting convincing - they performed Summer Nights with aplomb and Danielle's rendition of Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee sent a shiver down my spine as she smashed some big, big notes. They looked good together, danced well together and sang superbly together - a perfect combination.

Danielle's transformation from shy, sweet schoolgirl to raunchy rock chick, with the moves to match, was jaw-dropping. Goodbye to Sandra Dee, indeed!

But this production of Grease wasn't just about the principal pairing - in support was a cast of considerable talent - Tom Senior as Kenickie, with a great version of Greased Lightnin'; Louisa Lytton, suitably feisty as Rizzo; George Olney, whose high-pitched Elvis-style numbers Born To Hand Jive and the elaborately-staged Beauty School Dropout were real showstoppers; Callum Evans, who played the gawky but ultimately very able shimmier Eugene; and the incredible dancer Natasha Mould (Cha Cha).

Special praise must go to another couple of comic pairings - Ryan Heenan as Doody, whose song Those Magic Changes, complete with a hilarious dance-scene in the showers, was fantastic, alongside Rhiannon Chesterman as the very squeaky Frenchy; and Oliver Jacobson (Roger) and Rosanna Harris (Jan), whose interests lie more in food and mooning!

It was a dazzling, uplifting show, slick and well-groomed, with the vibrant We Go Together ending the first half and a hand-clapping, multi-reprise finale wrapping it all up in a very happy ending.

The band, perched above the back of the stage like something from the Muppet Show, held it all together with some fine musicianship.

There were plenty in the audience who were hopelessly devoted to Grease, including a group dressed up as Pink Ladies, helping create an electric atmosphere. They would all have gone home singing their favourite tunes with broad grins to boot.

Grease is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday, October 21, playing evenings Mon – Thu at 7.30pm, Fri & Sat 8.30pm, matinees on Friday at 5.30pm and Sat 5pm. Tickets, from £16.50, can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk

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