Black leather, skin-tight lycra, gyrating hips and horny teenagers – it is the perfect recipe for a family musical. Grease, after all the hype and reality television casting, was back in the West End last night, when Grease Is The Word winners Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden stepped onto the Piccadilly stage. Matthew Amer was at the first night to see if they really did go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.
You pretty much know what you are going to get with Grease. We are all acquainted with Mr Travolta's early dance breakthrough and Olivia Newton John's transformation from prim and proper student to sewed-into-her-trousers sex kitten. But those of you who haven't seen the stage musical before may be surprised in a very good way by the slight changes to the plot in the theatre.
Rizzo's big number There Are Worst Things I Could Do, is one such change. For me, probably the best song in the show – you can keep your Greased Lightnin's – is sung accusatorially to a slightly patronising Sandy, sparking the cardigan-toting student's new lease of life. Of course, all the numbers that everyone knows and loves are still there and had the first night audience clapping their nostalgic hearts out.
Another minor song from the film, Those Magic Changes, like Beauty School Dropout, is a song that doesn't really fit into the plot, but comes from nowhere to become a bizarrely hilarious set piece.
All eyes were undoubtedly on Bayne and McFadden, who coped admirably well with the pressure. Bayne in particular surprised many an audience member with his ability to find the comedy in Danny, switching between love-struck teen and too cool for school gang member. He looked at home, and not dissimilar to Travolta, in the iconic leather jacket.
Siobhan Dillon, who fans of reality casting will remember from How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, also makes a striking West End debut as cheerleader Patty Simcox, shaking her pom poms with expertise.
Elsewhere among the cast, Jason Capewell, as DJ Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel, has hammed up his part to a deliciously porky degree, all teeth, flashy jackets, Smashy and Nicey tones, with the merest hint of lechery.
David Gilmore's production is full of neon lights, bright colours, high-energy dance routines from the mind of Arlene Philips and a feel-good factor that is hard to find anywhere else. Judging by the reaction of the first night audience, it is certainly the one that they want.
For more from the first night of Grease, read .