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Grease The Musical - Royal and Derngate 2024 Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review

Having enjoyed runs in Leicester, in the West End and on tour Nikolai Foster's production of Grease hits the road once more to delight audiences along the way. The iconic music feels as alive as ever in arguably the strongest version of this production to date. 

The company of Grease. Photo by Marc Brenner

The musical tells the story of teenage love, angst and growing up. Central to the tale is leather-clad Danny and sweet girl-next-door Sandy who after a whirlwind summer romance arrive at Rydell High School for the new term only to find each other there. Can they survive the trials and tribulations of senior year and find love once more?

Audiences who arrive expecting a carbon copy of the film get something with a bit more grit and humanity. Foster loses the comic book feel you may get from the film with subtle changes such as the guys are now The Burger Boys rather than the T-Birds. These slight narrative changes along the way mean you get something that is easily more enjoyable and relatable. 

Key to that enjoyment is the magnificent score with the music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey given pulsating new life with Sarah Travis' arrangements and an off-stage band under the musical direction of Charlie Ingles. With such a beloved score it's numbers like 'Grease Is The Word' and 'Summer Nights' that are superbly delivered both musically and vocally. 

Dame Arlene Phillips choreographs the production alongside associate choreographer Richard Roe and the movement is incredible. The high-octane musical numbers are simply phenomenal with slick precise dance that the energetic ensemble delivers with such a punch. The most stand-out number is 'Greased Lighting' which has the perfect combination of strong vocals, amazing movement and clever staging including the use of pyrotechnics. Phillips continues to stage pulsating movement that makes you wish you were on stage amongst it all.

Further to the visual impact of the production is Colin Richmond's design which sets you at the heart of Rydell High with a whole host of props changing the locations with ease. Ben Cracknell's excellent lighting design adds further punch, particularly in the dance sequences. Cracknell also manages to bring things down to add a layer of emotion that is commanded through the visual lighting palette. 

Marley Fenton as Danny and Hope Dawe as Sandy. Photo by Marc Brenner.

A richly talented company are led by Marley Fenton as Danny Zuko, he's a charming leading man with the right level of arrogance added in too. Fenton is a tremendous mover and also has a lovely vocal range. Hope Dawe is perfectly sweet with a bit of rawness under the surface as Sandy. They create the romance well in the opening scenes that carries through right to the end. There are moments that feel a little lost, such as 'Hopeless Devoted To You' whilst Dawe sings it brilliantly it's place in the production makes it feel a little underpowered in terms of its impact.  

Understudy Imogen Malone covered Rizzo at the performance I attended and gave a stand-out performance, arguably the strongest of the show. Malone weaved the character's journey with great skill. Showing both sass whilst if you scratched under the surface you get real heart there. George Michaelides as Kenicke and Sario Solomon as Sonny both impress with stand-out stage presence. Kieran Lynch as Doody manages to be softer and does fine work with 'Those Magic Changes'.

Sergi Ibanez understudying as Roger and Emerald B as Jan create a lovely relationship together. In all the raunchy teenage behaviour the two are warm with 'Mooning' late in the first act being a really sweet moment. Alicia Belgarde is hugely likable as Frenchy with a delightful charm whilst Phoebe Roberts does some great work as Patty Simcox. Joe Gash showcases the strongest vocals of the lot as Vince Fontaine and as Teen Angel.

Undoubtedly there are a few underpowered or underplayed moments but 2 and a half hours absolutely flies past. The production ends on a pulsating Megamix of hits from the show that sends the audience on a soaring high. Grease truly remains THE word and this electric production could be the best version of the show to date. Pulsating energetic brilliance.


Grease The Musical plays at Northampton's Royal and Derngate until Saturday 18th May. Tickets are available from The tour continues with dates booking until 16th November. Find out more details at

The Grease company. Photo by Marc Brenner

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