REVIEW: Grease rocks the Empire

Grease at the Liverpool Empire? Tell me more, tell me more….

Ah well, ah well, it’s pretty darn fabulous, actually.

Grease the Musical has been through many iterations, from stage to film and back again, so if you’re very familiar with the film, you’ll find that some of the songs are missing whilst some different ones are included.

Nonetheless, Danny and Sandy’s love story is pretty much the same: girl meets boy; boy is too cool for school (and to be his own sweet self in front of the gang); girl ups her coolth quota to meet him halfway and it’s happy days.

As foils to the cute couple are the wonderfully brash, raunchy and turbulent coupling that are Kenickie and Rizzo. With the best lines and the best songs (Greased Lightning and There Are Worse Things I Could Do), it’s hard not to see this pair as the real stars of the show and certainly George Michaelides’ hickey-giving Kenickie gives great strut whilst Rebecca Stenhouse’s hard-as-nail-lacquer Rizzo embodies the character’s brittle sass brilliantly.

And Stenhouse stuffs into her solo all Rizzo’s vulnerability, honesty and defiance with such painful sincerity that the audience sheds a collective tear.

True, Marley Fenton could have given it a bit more swagger as Danny Zuko. But this brings to the fore the inner sweetness at Danny’s core, echoed in his dulcet voice. And, true, Hope Dawe as Sandy is a little stentorian in her more forte moments but, as her professional debut, she owns the daisy-fresh and primrose-proper Sandy.

Notable amongst the rest of the cast is Alicia Belgarde’s Frenchie who is Brooklyn-perfect around the vowels and Kieran Lynch’s Doody who, for my money, has the best voice in a cast of fabulous voices.

But it’s the ensemble pieces that really rock the house. Fast and furious choreography is accompanied by the blastingly good band of soaring sax, funky bass and thrashing guitar, winsome woodwind and crashing keyboard. The sound is raw, live and loud. You want to sing, you want to whoop, you want to hand jive all the way home.

Grease is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday, 1 June.

Image credit: Marc Brenner

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