Thursday, 10 October 2019

REVIEW: Grease at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Grease. A word that has many meanings but always makes you instantly think of the 1971 hit musical before anything else. It is arguably one of the most famous musicals to date and is regularly performed all around the world to sold out venues and no specific target audience. 

Grease; The Musical is currently being staged at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley until Saturday October 12th. However, it’s a slightly fresh take on the classic and being honest - it’s about time! 

I was immediately taken aback by the size of the stage at this side street theatrein Bromley. The stage is absolutely massive and luckily, thanks to scenic designer Colin Richmond, does not swallow the set and the production. In fact - quite the opposite. The, rather large, set consists of the obligatory set of bleachers, school gym apparatus and an elevated recording studio for Vince Fontatine amongst other pieces that move around to create different environments. The set also includes the most famous car in the world - Greased Lightning! 

The cast of this particular production are hands down the best thing about the show! Every single cast member is electric and ooze talent. This is particularly highlighted in group musical numbers such as ‘We Go Together’ and ‘Hand Jive’. The choreography by Arlene Phillips and Richard Roe is hands down, the best choreography I have seen in the many productions of Grease that i’ve endured in my life. It’s slick, effective and energetic and is executed absolutely seamlessly by the entirecast - not one lazy arm or sickled foot in sight! 

Normally I would highlight a few members of the cast in a review but honestly, it would be impossible to do so with such a standard of talent. I would kick myself, though, if I didn’t take a second to appreciate the vocal chops of Martha Kirby in the role of Sandy. Her ‘Hopelessly Devoted’ was the best i’ve ever heard and seemed so effortless for her. An absolute star! 

I mentioned that this production provided a ‘fresh take’ on a classic and i’d like
to discuss a little further. It’s no secret that the world we live in now is hugely different from the time when this musical first came around over forty years ago. It was only a few years ago that I really sat down and thought about the message of the show that people go crazy for. Essentially, it’s about a girl in high school who is polite, modest and self respecting. She is ridiculed for her morals and classy behaviour by and entire school to the point where she breaks down and begins to question everything about herself. In short - she gets a makeover and becomes a bit of slut and is suddenly loved by everybody and gets the man she wants. Just think about that. That is the message that this show gives people in 2019. Well, not any more (kind of). 

I was taken aback by a more assertive, feisty and self assured Sandy and absolutely loved the fact that she was less - wet - for lack of a better word. About 80% of the way through the show, she was shown in a different light and played very differently to how people know her. It was so refreshing to see. However, all that hard work to change the perspective was lost when the ending was exactly the same as the original. I spoke to a few members of the audience in the interval of the show who all thought that it was going to be a completely different ending because of how she was being portrayed and the excitement for that alternate ending was definitely present. Only to be disappointed later on. Apart from that, a lot of the changes in this production were well thought out and current. I was, however, unsure why the name of the T-Birds was changed to ‘The Burger Palace Boys’ though?

It was also a real pleasure to see a diverse, well-represented cast too. IT’S ABOUT TIME!

This production of Grease is the same, fun filled, feel good musical that you know and love but now contains real artistry and connection to text - something which doesn’t normally come with this show. 

Grease is very nearly the word! 

Review by Lucas Wang

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls N34 | Price of Ticket: £45
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