Tag Archives: Arlene Phillips

REVIEW: Grease The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The first new production in 25 years, and with the promise of a return to the gritty, raw, original 1971 production, the odds would seem stacked in favour of this Leicester Curve production of Grease, one of the world’s most beloved musicals. However, spectacularly bad casting, lacklustre energy levels and poor vocals, render what should be a corker of a show, into a two and a half hour yawn-fest.

It’s 1959, Rydell High, and a dozen angst ridden teenagers negotiate the ups and downs of high school life: break ups, make ups, peer pressure and pregnancy scares, with a raft of familiar tunes wrapped around the action (if not in the order that fans of the movie are used too).

Principal among the faults of this production is the casting: Dan Partridge’s Danny Zuko is a non-descript leading man, he lacks any presence, his accent is appalling (something that seems endemic in the cast), and his singing voice even worse, and unforgivably there is absolutely no chemistry with the woefully underused Martha Kirby as Sandy, who manages to elevate proceedings in the few occasions she’s on stage. It is absolutely baffling why she would ever fall in love with this loser in the first place. Louis Gaunt is a charismatic Kenickie who makes his mark (the young actor seems as if he would be a much better fit as Danny). Of note too is Natalie Woods, who has a lovely voice and a nice presence as the body-conscious Jan, less successful are Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky as Rizzo, who looks thoroughly bored throughout and Darren Bennett, who provides an uncomfortable watch as the boob-grabbing old letch Vince Fontaine, the performance smacks of 1970s Benny Hill/Freddy Starr, not memories you’d want to evoke in 2019.

Are we are so far removed and so distanced from the times in which this is set, that it fails to resonate? Is that the main issue? There’s a moment in the cheesy dialogue when after a break up and a make up between Danny and Sandy where her asks her: ‘don’t you want my ring?’ you can almost hear the female audience cry: ‘no thanks I’d rather have a career’. The entire show plays out like a badly disjointed series of unrelated scenes and the lack of drive doesn’t help. On a positive note, Colin Richmond’s gymnasium design is effective, if simplistic and Guy Hoare’s lighting design tonally compliments it – it should be said though, that it’s particularly heavy on the dry ice.

The entire production from start to end lacks impact, there isn’t an ounce of sparkle and the lack of energy and commitment of the cast is astonishing. One could argue that it’s impossible to make Grease boring, but boy does this production succeed in achieving just that.

Runs until 31 August 2019 | Image: Manuel Harlan

REVIEW: Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

An artist who means so much to so many: both tragic victim of the studio star system and ultimate Hollywood legend, the ever-enduring appeal of Judy Garland is enough to ensure a full house wherever her name appears.

Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland is the only production officially sanctioned by the Garland estate and features youngest daughter Lorna Luft accompanied on this whistle-stop journey through the musical career of her mother by West End leading lady Louise Dearman, X-Factor, Brookside and Dancing on Ice alumni Ray Quinn, an array of seasoned musical theatre veterans and backing dancers The Boyfriends.

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The show format is a familiar one, live performances are interspersed with video snippets of Garland’s most famous movies and a few unseen interview clips of the star, looking it must be said, fragile and vulnerable, as well as some personal anecdotes from Luft about life with her famous parent. These personal reminiscences are a welcome touch and provide a tangible link from audience to superstar, that said, it would have been nice to utilise this very real connection and allow Luft more show time talking rather than singing songs which only her mother can truly give justice to.

There is a quality which permeates the whole production, from the set design of Colin Rozée (a Hollywood studio stage) with its black, red and white motif that carries through to the costume design, to the first class cast. Dearman and Quinn are the standouts in a universally talented line-up. Dearman’s “Stormy Weather” is a showstopper and Quinn surprises and delights, most notably in his duet with Darren Bennett, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, being both fleet of foot and in extremely fine voice. Bennett, it must be said is a class act, singing and dancing beautifully throughout. Dearman and Luft also memorably recreate the now famous 1962 duet between Garland and a then unknown Barbra Streisand.

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The musical arrangements are excellent as is the choreography and there are some nice touches in the projections especially in “The Trolley Song” where background and onstage action merge beautifully and to great effect. For all its quality there are a few quibbles though: a couple of technical glitches were handled quickly and professionally but an out of synch video of Garland singing “Mr. Monotony” did ruin what could have been a powerful moment.

The celebratory tone is brought to an end by a melancholy tribute to Garland and her most famous song, as the first notes ring out from “Over The Rainbow” the production to its credit, realises that no one else could come close to the star’s iconic rendition, leaving Judy in her gingham dress to sing alone.

This is very much a production that gives its target audience what it wants. With nigh-on 30 songs on the bill and a first-rate cast, the audience can’t complain it doesn’t get its money’s worth. A fine, quality tribute to a Hollywood legend.

Runs until Sat 6 June 2015 then touring

This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/judy-the-songbook-of-judy-garland-theatre-royal-glasgow/