Last night I saw the latest production of ‘Grease’ at the Liverpool Empire. Over the last 30 years, I have seen Grease on stage a number times, so I’m aware of the difference between the musical and film, but each performance I’ve seen previously has been directed in a similar tone to the film.
However, this latest production was a rather different experience… 20 minutes in, I was glad I was there with my mum and not my 9 year old daughter! It was a much more ‘adult’ production, particularly in the first half, presenting the “Palace Burger Boys” (a.k.a. the “T-Birds”) with a more aggressive, street-gang vibe. The scattered use of bad language and some raunchy, sexual physical expression from the boys, initially shocked me, until I realised this was a nod to the original Broadway show, which was essentially a rowdy, raunchy, parody of juvenile delinquents of the fifties.
The set was in keeping with this, and felt very urban, with a rather simple, yet effectively lit, set for most of the show. Floor to ceiling wooden gym climbing frames sat either side of a central (movable) staircase, leading to a raised platform inside a huge ‘Rydell High School’ logo, in the centre of which we can see famous DJ, Vince Vontaine broadcasting his radio show, on and off during the show. Then later Marty’s bedroom set was charming, the ‘Grease Lightning’ car was impressive and the classic American Diner set in the final scene was sensational.
At half time, despite a very charming rendition of ‘Mooning’ between Jan and ‘Roger /Rump’ (Putzie) I felt like the show was lacking some of the joy I was expecting, however, as the show continued, there was a good contrast between the rougher, tougher tone of the original show, and the sweet, colourful, nostalgic elements of the film.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that this show had referenced a lot of the film script and re-created moments we’re so fond of like when Sandy and Danny are at the Drive In and she slams the car door on him, wounding him in the privates, so it felt familiar.
The whole cast were excellent. The quality of performance was superb – particularly the singing and dancing. However, Danny and Kenickie were excellent character actors but seemed a bit too cool, without the slight goofiness that we love about them in the film, so for me, they lost some of their charm, but it was clearly intended direction and possibly closer to how their characters were originally written.
I’m often nervous about seeing a celebrity in a West End show and I often find their performance lacking, alongside classically trained performers. However, Peter Andre was born to play Vince Vontaine and doubled up, if not more perfectly as the Guardian Angel singing “Beauty School Dropout’. He may be known for his singing voice, but I was highly impressed by his stage presence – he really committed to both roles, had fun and made us laugh, reminding us how talented he is.
The choreography cleverly managed to achieve a combination of fifties rock ‘n’ roll and more modern street dance, helping to create that urban, edgy vibe and the Musical Direction was outstanding. Again, it was the perfect balance, including our favourites from the film soundtrack and songs from the original score such as ‘Freddy My Love’ and a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Those Magic Changes’.
The finale was exactly what a Grease audience hopes for – a good singalong, especially in Liverpool! After their bows and more applause, the cast performed a medley of the most popular songs and the whole theatre were on their feet dancing. That’s the sign of a really great show!
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.