Wella Wella Wella.. oh-well.
It is not often I have to write a less than positive review, especially for somewhere such as the Bristol Hippodrome. I’ll start with the fact that it wasn’t a bad production, it was full of joy, energy and great songs but the problem I have is that it was a little flat. Overall the cast is very weak, the story is told in a very superficial and old fashioned way and the production of the show is plain.
The main issue is the lead roles. Danielle Hope’s ‘Sandy’ was passable but her voice didn’t quite fit the style of the songs, and her solos were static and uninspiring. The chemistry between her and ‘Danny’, played by Tom Parker, was minimal and the small amount of dialogue was awkward and stunted. Danny Zuko is the coolest guy in school, he oozes sexiness, grit and effortless charisma, but Parker’s portrayal was clumsy and embarrassing to watch. Although I do understand he has big John Travolta sized boots to fill.
The highlight of the show was Jimmy Osmond in a cameo part as the “Beauty School Drop Out” number. Suited and booted in a glitzy tuxedo, his performance was strong and his voice wonderful for the song. His pyrotechnic keyboard and floaty angels deserved the cheer they received and it was a real shame to not see more of him.
Music-wise, the live band that featured at the beginning and end were incredible. They were real showmen and the mash ups were innovative and fresh. Their pink tuxedos only adding to the experience of it all.
It felt like the producers are trying too hard to replicate some of the moments in the film word for word. This meant these well known lines and jokes were forced and uncomfortable. When they did weave in original material and scenes, the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed and these moments were really quite enjoyable, I just wish there was more of it.
Some of the secondary characters were strong, particularly school nerd Eugene and archetypal presenter Vince Fontaine. It was also nice to see some of the smaller relationships explored that aren’t explicitly addressed in the film. Jan and Frenchy having their romantic moments with members of the T-Birds, shed light on characters that are overlooked in the late 70s film.
The production definitely delivered when it came to big hair, 50s costumes and classic songs, and I think this is the reason why it received a positive reception from the audience. However, if you are looking for more of a 3D production, then I wouldn’t recommend. It lacked a lot of weight and meaning that the film and story brings, making it feel very shallow and unpolished. It had all the right components and potential but a lack-lustre cast, which put fame before talent causing a flat and awkward performance. Therefore I think the film triumphs over the live version.