Despite the best efforts of all involved, watching Grease on stage doesn’t really equate to a trip to the theatre as much as being forced to attend some kind of money-spinning Christmas party tribute night with all the people from work you can’t stand.
It’s an inoffensive, but notably incredibly speedy romp through all the old favourites, yet try as you may to judge it on its own merits, the live show makes the 1978 film version look like Citizen Kane. As unfair as it is to the current cast, John Travolta, Stockard Channing and the rest loomed far too large.
It would have been impossible for this stage production to be any more dumbed down. But generally speaking, the show was among friends. Nobody seemed to really care.
Vendors were selling pompoms for the little girls and plastic cups of wine with foil pull off tops for the bigger girls, and that’s about all a potential audience member would need to know about whether it could possibly be the show for them.
Grease is the kind of musical that attracts that baffling sort of audience who have no fear a night at the theatre might be ever so slightly different to watching TV at home. We nearly ended up in a fight. “IF YOU SHUSH ME ONE MORE TIME!”, we were threatened by one tired and emotional lady, who had been chatting away at full volume for large chunks of the second half.
Without that kind of rather scary distraction, Grease is certainly harmless enough. It’s undemanding, it has its funny moments, and a classic song is never very far away. Ray Quinn shouldn’t be criticised for his cutie-pie looks – as Summer Lovin’ goes, “He was sweet/ Just turned eighteen”, which was something John Travolta was most definitely not when he played Danny Zukko. Quinn’s dance moves were impressively nifty, but his vocals (which we know he can deliver) often fell prey to a lousy mix.
Another X Factor star, Rhydian Roberts (pictured), made an appearance as the Teen Angel for one number, Beauty School Dropout, which was a suitably fun scene. Carina Gillespie as Sandy did everything as required, the Pink Ladies were dull replicas of the movie cast, and the T-Birds an indistinguishable mass of leather and quiffs.
For a little bit of escapist fluff, provided you’re sat in a peaceful enough spot, it just about does the trick.