Bristol Theatre Reviews

Grease The Musical Review at the Bristol Hippodrome

Grease is a bullet-proof musical. Unless you do something really radical with it, it’s almost impossible to get wrong. Last night’s performance of Grease was an evening of high-energy musical theatre, which thoroughly entertained the palpably excited audience. They got it completely right.

Does the show need an introduction? I don’t think so. It’s an iconic piece of popular culture, forever captured on film and much-loved by its fans.

This stage show won’t disappoint. If you’ve never seen it on stage before, you will notice some storyline differences. This is due to the 1978 movie deviating from the original 1971 stage musical.

Yes, it’s a little 2 dimensional in places, but let’s face it, that’s what audiences want. They want a carbon copy of the movie they love so much, with the characters they are firmly attached to and with a slew of banging musical theatre numbers.

Maeve Byrne as Jan and Josh Barnett as Roger
photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Having said that, each individual song is where the actors really get a chance to develop their loveable characters. This is why Maeve Byrne as Jan and Josh Barnett as Roger get away with making the audience laugh over a song, which let’s face it, is about waving bare bums at ladies.

Greased Lightnin’ was an Act One highlight. This comes from the focus being on actors rather than fancy cars or extreme lighting, which I feel has plagued previous productions of the show.

The first half did feel a little busy at times, perhaps muddled in places involving the police – where the storyline will be unfamiliar to those seeing the stage show for the first time. But the second half was a banger and didn’t put a foot wrong. It was a genuine challenge trying not to sing along. Again, this is down to a creative team trusting actors to do what they do best – sing, dance and act.

West End shows on tour often come with ten ton of complex automation. Colin Richmond’s set design featuring a 70’s gym motif was so good because it just gave the cast a chance to shine with Arlene Philips and Richard Roe’s choreography.

Tendai Rinomhota as Rizzo Photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Tendai Rinomhota had one of those shining moments as Rizzo, with There are Worse Things I Could Do.

The more problematic elements of the storyline were dealt with brilliantly by a fiery Ellie Kingdon as Sandy. After her infamous sleep-over scene with the Pink Ladies, she doesn’t tolerate anyone’s nonsense, firing back as good as she gets from the show’s more salty characters.

The drive-in scene felt like a really important moment for all those young children and teens watching. No means no, and that’s absolutely fine.

Whilst the final transformation is still a bit questionable in terms of conforming to peer pressure, this Sandy does it on her own terms. She doesn’t feel pressured into it and it comes through self reflection. The big reveal feels fun and playful rather than a solid character selling out. Ellie Kingdon is a strong and independent Sandy in this production, perhaps far more than other versions I have seen. It’s surprising to see this is her professional debut. Her Hopelessly Devoted To You was sublime.

Peter Andre as Vince Fontaine Photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Of course, Peter Andre playing both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine, is another big pull for this show. He knows how to work an audience, with highly anticipated Beauty School Drop Out being another highlight.

Grease the Musical at the Bristol Hippodrome is everything you would expect and want from this iconic show. It certainly blew away the cobwebs on a theatre only recently opened in this post-pandemic world.

Grease is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 25 September 2021.

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