Theatre review: Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

Grease is the word (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

Grease is the word (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome - Credit: Archant

Want to feel like a teenager again? (But in a good way. Obvs.) Then Grease is the word, says Katie Jarvis

Danny and Sandy (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

Danny and Sandy (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome - Credit: Archant

What wouldn’t I have given for a Grease-style teenagehood! No one spontaneously broke into Little Richard-type numbers when I was growing up (but considering my teenage years were spent in the 70s, I guess prog rock was less catchy to hum along to).

No one made out under the dock – not sure we had one – or treated teen pregnancy as a badge of super-coolness.

[My best friend once asked me, as we waited in an ice-skating-rink queue, what percentage chance I thought there was that I was a virgin. Never having even held a boy’s hand, I remember being fairly unsure, but made a wild stab at a respectable 78 percent.]

And then along came Grease, the film of the teenagehood we all wanted. Even if John Travolta looked about 30 when he played Danny, and then went on to be weird about airplanes, we adored it.

Pink Ladies (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

Pink Ladies (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome - Credit: Archant

And that’s the thing about Grease. It’s like knowing where you were when JFK was shot (if you’re a certain age), but in a good way. Everyone remembers first seeing Grease; it brings back not a snapshot but an era.

What was cute about standing in the queue waiting to have my bag searched at Bristol, was the age range. And the excitement! So many young kids; so many middle-aged women; so many men. People dressed up with pink hair, preppy cardigans and billowing skirts.

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And the party atmosphere continued inside. The minute the band started playing high above the stage – what a fab, fab band; I want to become a close friend of the conductor with the swinging blond ponytail – we were all desperate to dance in the aisles.

I guess it’s that that carries it along; an audience affection for this tale that offers nothing but atmosphere and charm. It doesn’t preach feminism or disaffection; it just lets you enjoy. The cast is super-charged with energy and zest – and when a cast is having fun, you can have fun.

T Birds (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome

T Birds (c) Grease, Bristol Hippodrome - Credit: Archant

So what was great about it? The band, as I said; the Arlene Phillips choreography (some of it international gym-standard), which doesn’t put a foot wrong. Tom Parker (former star of The Wanted, whatever that is) is pretty good as a teenager – not sure he has the charisma for Danny, though; and it soon became obvious that Danielle Hope (Sandy) has the stronger voice. So much so that, at times, it felt more like watching his mother than his love-interest.

Louisa Lytton improved through the show as Rizzo (do these musicals over-rely on TV names above talent, one unkindly wonders?); but singing Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee, she sounded alarmingly sweet over raucously satirical.

Some of the stage effects were great fun; others – including the flashing lights during Greased Lightnin – were so terrifyingly bright, it was like looking at a solar eclipse.

Best of all? Maybe it’s my age – though I think the rest of the audience agreed – was Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel. Here was a guy who was a teenager when I was a teenager; here is a guy who knows how to hold the audience in the palm of his slightly-wrinkly hand.

So go along for a fab sing-song. You won’t be bored. Go along for Jimmy Osmond.

But, most of all, go along because Grease – despite its age – is a way to feel young, whatever era you were a teenager. Huge percentage chance.

Grease will be running Monday June 5 to Saturday June 10 at the Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ, 0)117 302 3310;