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Grease at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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It's the one that we want
This is Grease - but not as many of us know it. Director Nikolai Foster has sidestepped the slightly sanitised 1978 movie version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and returned to the musical's roots in Chicago, where the original stage production premiered in 1971. This version is grittier than the film and the first Broadway production, with more emphasis on the gang culture of Rydell High School - the guys' group, led by Danny Zuko, has even reverted to its original name, Burger Palace Boys, rather than the T-Birds of the movie.

Grease, Musical, The Alexandra Birmingham, Peter Andre, Nikolai Foster, Arlene Phillips, Ellie Kingdon, Dan Partridge
Gritty: Grease The Musical (pic: Sean Ebsworth Barnes)


None of this mattered a jot to the packed Alexandra audience who sang along to familiar anthems like Summer Nights, Greased Lightning and You're The One That I Want. They were also dazzled by the dancing which was blessed with the magic touch of choreographer Arlene Phillips. She certainly knows how to get the best from the performers! It's a large cast and at times it seemed impossible for them all to jive and jitterbug on the same stage at the same time. But set pieces like We Go Together and the dance contest, featuring Shakin' at the High School Hop and Hand Jive (with shades of Strictly), were simply stunning.

Grease, Musical, The Alexandra Birmingham, Peter Andre, Nikolai Foster, Arlene Phillips, Ellie Kingdon, Dan Partridge
Gang: Burger Palace Boys (pic: Sean Ebsworth Barnes)


Dan Partridge as Danny Zuko and Ellie Kingdon as Sandy Dumbrowki – the couple who reunite at Rydell High after a summer romance – put in a fantastic performance, especially Ellie who, as 'Alternate Sandy' is making her professional debut. She's a great singer and was unfazed when an enthusiastic member of the audience loudly sang along during Hopelessly Devoted To You.

They are supported by talented and enthusiastic young actors. I was particularly impressed by Josh Barnett and Maeve Byrne who brought humour and energy to the roles of Roger and Jan, and put their heart and soul into their duet, Mooning.

Grease, Musical, The Alexandra Birmingham, Peter Andre, Nikolai Foster, Arlene Phillips, Ellie Kingdon, Dan Partridge
Humour: Josh Barnett and Maeve Byrne (pic: Sean Ebsworth Barnes)


The cast had to be good because the production could easily have become 'The Peter Andre Show'. The Mysterious Girl singer and reality show star has a huge fan following, most of whom seemed to be at The Alexandra. Cheers and shouts greeted his first appearance as radio DJ Vince Fontaine – and they continued every time he was on stage. He threatened to steal the show when Vince compered the dance contest, doing his best hip-swivelling Elvis impression and eliciting squeals of delight and calls of "We love you, Peter" from the female fans. Then he became Teen Angel, serenading Frenchy (Marianna Neofitou) with Beauty School Dropout. Like this whole show, it was great fun. John and Olivia who?

Grease, Musical, The Alexandra Birmingham, Peter Andre, Nikolai Foster, Arlene Phillips, Ellie Kingdon, Dan Partridge
Star: Peter Andre in Grease The Musical (pic: Sean Ebsworth Barnes)


Grease The Musical 2021 UK tour dates

Until Nov 6: The Alexandra, Birmingham;
Nov 9 - 13: Mayflower Theatre, Southampton;
Nov 15 - 20: Empire Theatre, Liverpool;
Nov 22 - 27: Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff;
Nov 29 - Dec 4: The Grand Leeds.


Grease, Musical, The Alexandra Birmingham, Peter Andre, Nikolai Foster, Arlene Phillips, Ellie Kingdon, Dan Partridge
Venue: The Alexandra, Birmingham

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Why? One of the world’s best-loved musicals is back, grittier and more glamorous than ever.
When: Until November 6, 2021, then touring.
Phone: 0844 871 7627
Where: The Alexandra, Birmingham
Cost: From £13 plus fees
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