Grease The Musical: an explosive new production of an old favourite

Nikolai Foster’s show at the Dominion Theatre delivers in its boundless energy and show-stopping visuals

Virtually no one is heading into a performance of Grease with no idea what to expect. The 1978 film adaptation is one of the most successful movie musicals of all time and even the most culturally bereft among us know the exact nasal intonation to put on John Travolta’s final note of ‘Summer Nights’. But Nikolai Foster’s production still manages to be surprising in sheer scale, filling the Dominion Theatre with raucous, infectious energy.

The show’s script and libretto stay true to the landscape they are set in and have not been scrubbed of their more problematic sentiments (yes, that infamous lyric about Sandy “putting up a fight” is still in there). But these uncomfortable moments are tempered by the strength of the female principle cast members. Rizzo, historically the strong woman of the show, is at her most powerful and complex played by Jocasta Almgill. Olivia Moore’s Sandy is less demure and more steadfast, hurt by Danny’s misogyny but not bowing under it. Even the cocky insecurity of Dan Partridge’s Danny serves to remind us that his questionable treatment of Sandy stems from a lack of guidance and some seriously backwards teenage logic.

There’s an overwhelming amount of talent in the young cast. Moore delivers a rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ which takes the roof off of the Dominion, and West End newcomers Mary Moore and Noah Harrison’s ‘Mooning Duet’ is vocally stunning and irresistibly sweet. All set against the backdrop of Colin Richmond’s excellent gymnasium-inspired design, the youthful energy onstage is convincing and moving.

It’s Arlene Phillips’ choreography that brings the show home though. Meticulous in detail and unrelenting in drive, it turns the famous ensemble numbers, particularly ‘Born To Hand Jive’, into show-stopping spectacles. Peter Andre as Vince Fontaine is a joy, embracing every second of his time onstage for a hilarious, hip-thrusting turn as the local celebrity – all charm, no sleaze. Foster and Phillips give him plenty of time to shine and his antics even cause certain audience members to forget that what they’re watching is theatre and not a concert. When Andre first appears in his leopard print suit, there is a shout from the Dress Circle that sounds like the stuff of hen parties.

It’s easy to see where the confusion lies. In a big venue like the Dominion, a show has to shout to be heard, and the challenges are remarkably to similar to those that come with filling an arena. Foster embraces this, with his cast encouraging the audience to get on their feet, get their phones out and sing along to the megamix at the end of the show. It’s a wonderful way to send everyone out with a smile on their face – and to ensure a standing ovation.

Grease the Musical | Ticketmaster UK

Grease The Musical is playing now at the Dominion theatre in London. Find tickets here.