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Grease - Curve Review

The Made at Curve production of Grease returns to the city for 2 weeks as part of it's UK tour.
The Grease Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan
The iconic musical, Grease, returns to Curve where this production originated on a sell-out run over the festive period a couple of years ago. One of the world's best-loved musicals tells the tale of teenage lovers, leather-clad Danny and girl-next-door Sandy. After a whirlwind summer romance, the pair are unexpectedly reunited at Rydell High School as they transfer for senior year. Will they survive the trials and tribulations of teenage life and find love again?

Under the direction of Curve's artistic director, Nikolai Foster this production breathes a freshness to the piece. With the iconic 1978 movie version still being ever-popular, it's a brilliant decision that's been made to steer slightly away with this production. Gone are the T-Birds now the Burger Palace Boys. Sandy's iconic blonde hair is gone too, now a brunette. Subtle changes but the narrative structure is unchanged.

There's much more of grit and a darker tone to this production. Forget the comic strip feel you may expect, this feels more of a teenage angst story than a parody comedy. That realism of the characters makes you emphasise with their turmoil and journeys more than I expected too.

A superb live band under the musical direction of Neil MacDonald with arrangements by Sarah Travis bring the iconic numbers to life. Those iconic numbers such as "Summer Nights" and "You're The One That I Want" have the audience singing along in a terrific megamix which ends the night. Some of the new musical numbers do get lost alongside those iconic counterparts but they do fit and work well.
Louis Gaunt as Kenickie (centre) and the male ensemble. Photo Manuel Harlan
Legendary choreographer Arlene Phillips has done a spectacular job with the choreography. The company move superbly throughout. The ensemble dance sequences like "Hand Jive" are undoubtedly as good any production you'd see on the West End.

A fantastic design team has staged the production superbly. Colin Richmond's school hall design and the use of the various elements within that make it visually a great production to watch. There's a great use of various props, including the car Greased Lightin' which also takes the air in one scene. Guy Hoare's lighting and Douglas O'Connell's projection both are superb too.

That highly talented company are led by Dan Partridge's Danny Zuko, he's excellent throughout with a soaring strong vocal. The chemistry between him and Martha Kirby's Sandy is there from the beginning. She's equally as brilliant, she delivers a spellbinding "Hopelessly Devoted To You" in the second act. Watching both Dan and Martha you just know they'll be in the West End leading shows in the near future.
Dan Partridge (Danny) and Martha Kirby (Sandy)
Photo by Manuel Harlan.
In the absence of the poster boy Peter Andre who plays Teen Angel at certain performances, we were treated to Darren Bennet in the role. Whilst the role is essentially just one number ("Beauty School Dropout") Darren also delivers an exuberant performance as DJ Vince Fontaine. He's a bit of a legend in these parts and it's great to see him thriving and relishing the role.

There is fine work by both Louis Gaunt as Kenicke and Damian Buhagair as Sonny Latieri. Eloise Davies's Frenchy is charming and loveable. Jordan Abey's Doody has a great number "Those Magic Changes" in the second act which is delivered superbly. Natalie Woods (Jan) and Ryan Andreson (Roger) are delightful, their spark and blossoming romance is a real joy to watch. Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky's Rizzo is sassy and played perfectly. Rhianne's stunning vocal range is great to hear too. Special mention to Tara Sweeting too who as Marty looks like a talent to keep an eye on.

Running at 2 and a half hours there is time's where the dialogue could have been better worked particularly in the opening scenes but once we're through those scenes the production flows excellently and is hugely enjoyable.

Forget the movie, this new production of the Grease is the want that you want.

Rating: ★★★★

Grease plays at Curve in Leicester until Saturday 14th September. To book visit here.
The UK tour continues until mid-October with stops in Dublin, Oxford, Bromley and Cardiff. For more details visit here.

Below is a Q and A with leads Dan Partridge (Danny Zuko) and Martha Kirby (Sandy Dumbrowski)

What makes this production of Grease so special?

Dan: It’s more interesting! As it’s a slightly different script to the film, it’s something a lot of people haven’t seen before. It’s a reason why so many people are coming to see the show because it’s not just going to give you the songs you want - it’s going to give you even more!
Martha: I think as a cast as well, everybody gets on ridiculously well.
D: It’s a real family.
M: I think that really shows in this production, which adds another level of friendship on and off stage.

So, it’s like the cast really are your school friends?

D: Yes! There are moments on stage where you kind of feel like you’re not struggling to find the character because it’s basically just me and my mates having the best time.

So, everybody feels like they know Danny and Sandy, but what do these characters mean to you?

D: Quite a lot! I played the role twice when I was a kid, so it’s been really nice and means quite a lot because I think it’s a film we all grew up with and we know it so well.
M: I think it was important for me to give Sandy more human qualities. People can be naive but still have a backbone and stand up for themselves and have an opinion and that’s what I wanted. I want her to have an opinion about her life and everything that goes on in it.

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

D: I have a few! I like the beginning of Greased Lightnin’, I also like Summer Nights because it kicks off the show and I like the Sandy transformation moment as well as it goes into You’re the One that I Want because it’s so iconic.
M: I love the bedroom scene with the girls, I think it’s just hilarious. I also love the scene with Rump and Jan – they do such a beautiful job.

Martha Kirby (Sandy) and Dan Partridge (Danny).
Photo by Manuel Harlan
What has it been like to work with Nikolai?

M: I love him!
D: it’s been amazing, he’s really given us free rein to go with our instincts – he really trusts us as actors. He’s amazing.
M: He’s such a lovely man, such a supportive person. You don’t feel uncomfortable to make an idiot of yourself because he just gives you the support to really challenge yourself and push yourself in a direction you wouldn’t normally go down. I have so much respect for him.

Why should people come and see this version of Grease?

D: Because it’s exciting, it’s innovative, it’s new – and it’s sexy!
M: You’ll have a great time!

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