Ad – press night – all views are my own
We’ve waited more than 500 days to see the curtains rise once again at The Regent Theatre – and Grease was the perfect show to blow away the cobwebs and mark the start of a fabulous AW season for the theatre.
I’ve been saying for weeks (okay, months) that I can’t wait for the first time those auditorium lights dim, where bums shuffle on mustard-coloured seats and get ready for a night of hand jiving and Summer Nights singing.
But before the iconic performance of Grease began, The Regent Theatre rolled the film of local poet Nick Degg reciting beautiful words about how much the venue means to our city and it’s customers. Filmed by Martin Brough, Nick walked through the streets of Hanley and Burslem and summed up all the emotion and excitement of sitting back in those stalls and circles at the historic venue.
In the blink of a (fairly teary) eye, we were transported to the 1950s – Rydell High School, to be exact – for an explosive performance of Grease is the Word.
This production of Grease sees not T-Birds, but Burger Palace Boys, as Director Nikolai Foster takes the popular 70s classic back to its original Broadway roots. Before the 1978 film we all know, love, and have watched 562 times, there was the 1972 Broadway, which followed the original 1971 production in Chicago.
Dan Partridge is the Danny Zuko to Georgia Louise’s Sandy, with the duo displaying electrifying chemistry on stage, with strong, harmonising vocals which works beautifully for the much-loved tracks Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want.
The musical features all the favourite hits from the Hollywood film, including Greased Lightning, Hand Jive and We Go Together. But die-hard fans of the movie will notice some tracks that didn’t make the movie, like Freddy My Love, about Marty’s marine boyfriend, and Danny’s solo ‘How Big I’m Gonna Be’.
What’s so brilliant about the original production is that it takes some of the spotlight away from Danny and Sandy’s turbulent romance, and shines it on some of the other characters and their subtle love interests, from Jan and Roger, to Rizzo and Kenickie. The original Warren Casey script sees the Pink Ladies and Burger Palace Boys shine, learning more about Frenchie, with Beauty School Drop Out being one of the best scenes of the show.
Move over Danny Zuko – anyone who watches this production will know it was really Kenickie who stole the hearts of the audience. Played by Paul French, the actors tough, cool guy attitude makes him the bad boy all the girls want – including Rizzo, played by Tendai Rinomhota. He shows Rizzo his more vulnerable side when it transpires she could be pregnant, before the angsty teen launches into There Are Worse Things I Could Do.
The sets were fabulous, and my favourite part had to be Vince Fontaine’s little DJ deck which appeared to float in mid air. A special mention must go to Jacob Fisher for filling this comical role, which had audience members hand jiving, giggling and swooning under clouds of Teen Angel hairspray.
Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips choreographed the show, and – alongside a colourful wardrobe department – it made for a real treat for the eyes. Twirling poodle skirts contract leather jackets for Shakin’ at the High School Hop, Grease is the Word and We Go Together, with technically complex twists and jumps that were executed brilliantly.
Grease The Musical finishes with a megamix where audience members could get up and do some hand jiving, and a wop ba-ba lu-mop and wop bam boom’s. It was such a feel-good show, and the ideal way to mark the return of performances at The Regent Theatre.
Grease The Musical is at The Regent Theatre until September 4 – and you can still bag tickets here (including Friday, with special cast member Peter Andre!)