Grease continues at Curve Leicester until 21 January 2017.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Grease might suggest a loud, eardrum-bursting undertaking, lacking in subtlety, coarse in its wit. But no, it’s none of that, as this brand new, scintillating in-house production of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s hit musical from Curve Leicester – full of energetic youngsters and beautifully crafted numbers – brilliantly demonstrates.
The musical’s boy-meets-girl story goes much further. Around the pair, a large, beautifully disciplined cast go through their own adventures, adding wonderful colour (designer Colin Richmond also brings gloriously outfits to a fabulously conceived set, with frothy stairways and delicate slatting, to exquisitely offset the ‘Burger Bar’ scenes).
It takes just the opening title sequence, and then ‘Summer Nights’, for us to sense a display of real talent. Choreographer Nick Winston’s rock-imbued sequences, abetted by clever moves from director Nikolai Foster, are a triumph, mainly because the believably teen-looking cast members all have such fabulous dancing skills, finessing every number into something truly outstanding.
They work in tandem, nobody is a fragment out of synch. With a fine rhythmic pulse generated by the musicians throughout, they delight the eye as they please the ear.
As Danny Zuko, Dex Lee dominates the stage effortlessly. He struts around and manages to combine the tough guy image with a sensitive, considerate and vulnerable side.
The T-Birds each devise their own characters: Sam Murphy’s Roger, Justin Thomas’ Johnny Casino, Max Joquera’s Sonny, Jonny Fines’ Kenickie (terrific in ‘Greased Lightin’) all blossom as individuals.
Nathanael Landskroner’s Doody has a moving solo, ably accompanied on guitar. Patrick Harper’s Teen Angel turns heavenly being, hilariously encircled by winged girls (a period flying car is another delight). The neatest dancer, for my money, is Luke George’s shy but explosive Bobby. Martin McCarthy’s Eugene, the nerdy one, is always amusing.
The girls are equally terrific. Sinead Kenny’s Cha-cha and Courtney George’s spirited Cynthia give superb support. Equally good acting comes from Sophie Camble’s Patty (‘Rydell Fight Song’) and Keisha Atwell’s beguiling Marty.
The hit songs are shared around. So when teacher Miss Lynch (Shobna Gulati) delivers an unexpected solo, ‘In My Day’, a charming piece of nostalgia, we learn that she, too, is and has been somebody. Hence her ovation.
Perhaps there have to be stars, and Curve sports talent galore: Sophie Isaacs’ pink-haired Frenchy is always around to help out when there’s trouble.
Abigayle Honey, cast as Amber (rival to the shyer Sandy) is a slick performer and terrific dancer. Djalenga Scott’s punchy Betty Rizzo matches Lee’s dazzling Danny, touting some blazing numbers: determined and confident.
Jessica Paul’s Sandy brings tears to the eyes with her big Act II number, ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, answered by Danny’s equally touching ‘Sandy’.
Honours to the band, Neil MacDonald running a spirited, tight shop, brass and plaintive saxophone helping energise the whole show.
Darren Bennett shines as the mature, guiding DJ, Vince Fontaine. Confident and arresting, he is the icing on the cake.