WHETHER Grease is about a group of all-American teenagers coming to terms with the angst of attempting to grow up or really at heart the United States itself learning to understand its own growth through rock n roll doesn’t matter in the slightest.
What matters is that Grease is a joyous outpouring of pure sugar with more memorable songs than most musicals can shake a stick at.
Of course John Travolta and Olivier Newton-John will forever be welded to their respective roles of Danny and Sandy but this performance by the King’s Company proved not only that Alexander Layfield and Indea Cranner can be just as memorable but also that the entire rocking company proved what a zappingly good show it is.
As Danny, Alexander showed just the right amount of arrogance, snubbing Sandy after their summer of love and eventually coming to recognise the new Sandy, changed, grown up, after watching her friends move through their own rites of passage. Indea Cranner’s transformation was beautifully handled, accompanied by a voice to die for, tripping effortlessly through Hopelessly Devoted to You as if the song had been written for her.
The Pink Ladies are the group who take on Sandy as one of their own; they include Frenchy, played by Paige Newell. Always worth watching, Paige, commanding her place on a packed stage alongside Paige Grey as Rizzo, Millie Jones as Jan, Grace Curcio as Marty and Elizabeth Carberry as Patty.
All the Pink Ladies shone like the sun, bringing focus, warmth and great integrity to roles which could so easily be ciphers. The sheer hard work that the team must have put in has paid off handsomely.
And of course the Burger Palace Boys, the punks who want so much to be treated like adults but are having just too much fun along the way. Charlie Watson as Kinickie is an excellent foil to Danny, providing strength in all he does; Freddie Bowles brought humour and wit to Roger; William Pinto as Doody showed excellent timing and JP Gilbey as Sonny added zest and colour.
Pierre Taffara-Cox played Eugene. Again his timing was superb and Pierre is as impressive as always. Alfie Peckham provided a brilliant double act as both Vince Fontaine and Johnny Casino; Sam Black was a wonderful Teen Angel; Victoria Davis as Miss Lynch – the only ‘adult’ in the show – came over as several shades darker than even Nurse Ratchett in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, never to be trusted as the voice of authority in Rydell High and grabbed her part by the throat until it rattled.
But it was in the musical numbers that the biggest scores of the evening were made and it’s a tribute to choreographer Natasha Hobbs and Dance Captain Harriet Cheseldene-Culley, who also played a memorably effective Cha-Cha, that the ensemble singing and dancing was not just of the highest order but resounded off the walls of the Hayward Theatre and had the audience rocking and roaring their appreciation.
It’s hard to come to terms with the number of people involved in making a show like Grease come alive and light up a December night but there was wonderfully supportive work from the show’s chorus – Isaac Beeton, Sam Black, Maria Campbell, George Collier, Alice Fisher, Emily Hamilton-Bing, Sadie Hammond, Jana Hatoum, Abigail Hughes, Jamie Layfield, Peter Lonsdale, Amelia Merrick, Mia Gray, Anastasiia Belan, Annie Moore, Florence Morgan, Edward Moss, Natsuko Noguchi, Jack Richardson, Alex Scarborough, Georgie Shosland, Harry Skoulding, Olivia Thomas, James Wilkinson, Natalie Youseff – as they transformed themselves into Greasers and Teen Angel Girls, and the set itself, no easy feat when space is at a premium and you’ve got half a car to bring on to the stage.
Finally a brilliant band of eight led by Musical Director Peter B North and an amazing set design by James Lane, Nick Huntington and Kathryn Sudbury brought a touch of professionalism to an already magical evening. Summer Nights really can be as good as this and Sudbury’s direction of a mammoth company was taut and stylish, wringing every drop of humour and empathy out a company who willed the show to succeed and in doing so proved that the King’s Company is as good as any out there. A wonderful, wonderful show getting to the highest level of expectation.