Monday, 13 August 2007

Review: Grease

Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre is one of the most brashly unsubtle, in-your-face, crass and cynical shows imaginable. It is probably also the cheapest looking musical currently in the West End, with production values akin to a large armature groups.

When I sit down to watch such a below par, cheap and tacky money making machine, my heart cannot fail to bleed for the people for whom this is a real treat, a rare experience of the thrill of live theatre. I’m sure many of them will eagerly return to another West End behemoth for next decade’s theatre trip, and the packed auditorium was filled with people noisily (even ostentatiously) determined to have a good time, despite the shocking spectacle on stage, but I still have an objection to bad theatre however commercially successful it may be (and this is a licence print money). It’s not that I have some moral disapproval towards commercial theatre, I accept that it’s a business and lives in discordant union with the subsidised sector (like a Stanley Kowalski to a Blanche DuBois), but popular musicals should be fun, uplifting and most importantly well made. This is none of those things.

Grease is apparently Britain’s favourite musical (according to a C4 poll of a couple of years ago, now eagerly promoted by this production), and it is not served well by the reality TV cast production, actually a retread of the 1993 staging (so Joseph and Grease both simply resurrect old versions of themselves, isn’t it time for something new?). The 1972 musical (with the famous 1978 John Travolta film) is not a great show in my view, but I am convinced that it can be done with more charm, chemistry and brio than this clunking fist of a production directed by David Gilmore. The production is all about sex, but has absolutely no sexual energy between any of the characters, it is all laddish innuendo and nothing more. The acting is also rather poor, being of the broad as the Thames Estuary variety; the cast are likeable enough, but the direction has put a stop to any personality or character actually emerging onstage. The TV winners Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden as Danny and Sandy respectively are better then I expected (given the pisspor TV show), with Bayne able to dance and able to hold the required notes, and McFadden singling prettily and looking wholesome until her rebirth as a sexy chick at the end of the show (which is not convincing).

The music itself is awful, the huge sound emanating from an eight piece band (hovering on a platform above the stage) was enough to make me wish for a set of earplugs. Just like production the playing is over the top, overloud and jarring (but again, the musicians aren’t to blame, the director and his sound designer are).

This is a very obvious and non pc show (which would be fine if it actually worked), with no joy or escapist pleasure in the musical numbers (bar perhaps a hint of silliness during ‘We Go Together’ at the end of act 1, as no emotion is required and the whole company partake in synchronised hand jiving on the bleachers). Spending your money to see this production is not recommended, the DVD of the film and a packet of popcorn at home would be a much cheaper and more enjoyable experience.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your reviews and love for writing could be taken more seriously if you would learn how to spell.

SJ

Sean said...

Thanks for that wonderfully thoughtful comment. I’m sorry that you can’t take me ‘more seriously’ because of some spelling errors (unspecified, and I’m certainly not going over it for your benefit).

I would politely ask that you refrain from reading this blog if (I’m hoping minor) spelling mistakes offend you that much. I aim to express myself clearly and grammatically correctly, but what I actually mean is much more important than any errors, as long as the reader can understand what is being written. I’m afraid that I do not often proof read things that I post, I also often write them very quickly and when I’m tired. Sorry, but that’s life.

If I were a journalist or an author you might have cause to complain if paying for my words. I’m not, and you’re not. I don’t have editors, sub editors, spell checkers or fact checkers (and an incorrect fact is worse than any spelling mistake in my view, so I do research facts or write with certainty!).

I also disagree with your premise of either not taking people seriously or taking them less seriously because of spelling mistakes. Spelling is important to help us understand each other, but I have more respect for ideas and expression than the form they are written in, as long as we can understand (there are limits!), as long as communication is happening. I think you’ll find that many people of high repute in many fields are also bad spellers…

Please do post again with your blog address and name so I can scrutinise the efforts you are making. So I can decide if your comments should be taken seriously (your well spelt comment is currently backed up by not very much, I’d love to see your reviews and thoughts on things, immaculately typed out no doubt).

As a general note to anyone reading this, don’t post about my general rubbish spelling. Either don’t read on, or if you think it is worthwhile going on and you really can’t bear it, let me know the specific errors and I will change them. Otherwise shut up and/or go elsewhere. I’m interested in hearing other people views on the theatre and culture, not really criticisms of my spelling! Thank you.