Jocasta Almgill’s Rizzo emerges as the star of Grease the Musical at the Dominion Theatre
“I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I can feel and I cry”
I’d little desire to see Grease when it returned to the West End last year despite being a fan of Nikolai Foster’s directing and a huge fan of Jocasta Almgill who starred as Rizzo. But as safe bets increasingly win the day, this production booked its own return to the Dominion Theatre for another summer season, this time with added part-time ‘star’ casting as Louise Redknapp, Peter Andre and Jason Donovan pop in for limited engagements and with Almgill also remaining with the show, I bit the bullet and booked.
It is undoubtedly a shiny and bright beast which has much to commend it, not least a pull on a cultural memory that is near impossible to resist. But it is only ever 90% of a great show, since the misogyny of its enduring message remains unaddressed – if wanna get ahead as a woman, just change yourself to pander to the male gaze. In today’s climate, it strikes such a bum note that it is hard to imagine why it hasn’t been revised, reworked or frankly just rewritten to make it fly today.
That said, it is less of an issue than it might be as the overall feel is one much more of an ensemble show, rather than one led by Danny and Sandy. Possibly, its the impact of using Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s original book, music and lyrics (it’s different from the film, shock horror!) but you do detect a lack of chemistry between Dan Partridge and Olivia Moore, not at all helped by a script that barely brings them together. Though when the result is the amplification for everyone else in the named company, it’s hard to argue it is a bad thing.
Almgill’s Rizzo is a great performance of a great role (carrying on that proud tradition of second lead female roles being so much better and less drippy than the lead) and Solomon Davy is a delight as Kenickie. Arlene Phillips’ choreography is hugely effective both at filling this huge stage but also matching our expectations and exceeding them in new ways, making the most of the number of bodies she has to play with. Grease is showing its age and I wish we’d consign it to the past as it is but there’s no doubting the nostalgic thrills it gives regardless.