I love Grease. It is my favourite musical. I have seen it several times, performed in it twice, and choreographed a production too. Hell, even my hen weekend had a Grease theme, so you can only imagine my joy when the Oxford New Theatre invited me to review the new touring production.
Danielle Hope (West End leading lady and winner of the BBC show Over the Rainbow) is an obvious choice for the role of Sandy with her pitch perfect voice and flawless American accent. She steals every single scene she is in; this is a real musical theatre masterclass performance.
However, I must admit to being more than a little concerned by some of the other casting though, particularly Tom Parker (who found fame as a member of the boy band The Wanted) who is cast as Danny Zuko. I questioned whether he would have the necessary stage presence and vocal chops to carry off such an iconic role.
I need not have worried too much. Tom Parker has a pretty great voice (clearly he was underused in his band) and brings a vulnerability and a sense of humour to the character. This is not your typical Alpha male John Travolta characterisation, but I really liked it.
Tom is immensely likeable in the role and you find yourself rooting for him to do well. His performance of ‘Sandy’ was easily his strongest and I have no doubt that with the support of a past Danny in the cast (Darren Day, now playing Vince Fontaine /Teen Angel) he will continue to develop the role into his own during the run.
It would be criminal not to mention Ryan Heenan and Oliver Jacobsen as Doody and Roger respectively. Both supporting characters have exceptional voices and really gave new life to often forgotten songs ‘Those Magic Changes’ and ‘Mooning’. Tom Senior belts out Greased Lightning with ease – his Kenickie is the coolest of all the T-birds and Michael Cortez is cheeky and charming as Sonny too. It’s not just the boys who bring the show to life. The Pink Ladies are incredibly sassy – Louisa Lytton’s performance has all the vital Rizzo attitude; her facial expressions are particularly fierce and you do really feel for her in the basement scene in the second half. Rhiannon Chesterman (Frenchy), Rosanna Harris (Jan) and Lauren Atkins (Marty) round out this girl gang with performances that are all on point, Rosanna Harris in particular has a fabulous voice.
Grease was voted the Greatest Musical in a recent Channel Four programme and it’s easy to see why. It is the ultimate feel-good show, guaranteed to get your toes tapping as you sing along to songs we all know and love. The story is timeless too; romance, high-school angst and 1950’s pop culture come together to create something truly magical. This is a show for all ages to enjoy.
Grease is on tour across the UK and is currently playing at the Oxford New Theatre until Saturday 1st April.