The Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
For real feel-good fun for all the family, most would agree that Grease is definitely the word.
Whether you’re watching the stage musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey – which has ultimately become the longest-running show in Broadway – or the hit movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John; it’s hard not to have a good time. And that’s exactly what I had at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion.
The standard of the show is as high as it can be, proving that it has come straight from London’s West End, produced by Robert Stigwood, Paul Nicholas and David Ian and directed by David Gilmore. The set and costume design is an exact replica of all our expectations while choreography by award-winner Arlene Phillips is second to none.
After gaining the winning spot on ITV’s Grease is the Word and making his West End debut in Grease back in 2007, Danny Bayne has since performed in several other stage productions and TV shows. However his wit, charm and occasional goofiness make him the perfect Danny Zuko and it is no surprise that he has returned to reprise the role.
Lesser-known but definitely one to watch is Carina Gillespie as Sandy. It is spectacular to see such a big and powerful voice come out of such a small and delicate person and even more so when they make a song their own as Gillespie does with Hopelessly Devoted To You. With their undeniable chemistry, Bayne and Gillespie make an outstanding duo, flanked by a sensational supporting cast who are equally as talented.
Kate Somerset How – also a finalist on ITV’s Grease is the Word – is fitting as the tough and threatening Rizzo but also successfully displays her vulnerable side in her rendition of There Are Worse Things I Could Do. Similarly, Ross William Wild is faultless as bad boy Kenickie and together the pair are as sexy as they are scandalous.
The rest of the T Bird crew (Doody, Roger and Sonny played by Richard Vincent, David O’Reilly and Josh Dever respectively) are unquestionably cool and hilarious with their smooth dance moves and never-ending boob gags. It’s clear to see that underneath their hard exterior and leather jackets, they are just as gawky as Darren John’s adorable Eugene.
Like the boys, the Pink Ladies remind us of our own friends; the beautiful Marty played by Scarlett Davies, the naïve Frenchy played by Lauren Hood and of course the sweet and innocent Jan played by Laura Wilson, who is the glue that keeps the girls together. Of course, Grease wouldn’t be what it is without DJ Vince Fontaine (and his unbelievably catchy Born To Hand Jive) portrayed by Stuart Reid, the annoyingly snobby Patty played by Charlotte Gooch and the rest of the company.
The entire production is excellent from start to finish, with the whole cast performing in harmony and bouncing off each other. Their musical talent is showcased spectacularly through a wide range of genres from pop hits Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want to the power ballads It’s Raining On Prom Night and Sandy.
And lucky for me and everyone else seeing Grease at the Cliffs Pavilion; Beauty School Dropout is performed to perfection by Rhydian Roberts. I am sorry to sound like one giant cliché but he definitely had the X Factor!
In all, Grease is a monumental success, having the audience singing along, laughing, crying and even hissing at Emily Hawgood’s Cha Cha. With viewers in their eighties down to little ones as young as five, this is a production for literally all the family to enjoy and definitely not one to miss.