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Grease at Piccadilly, Ian invites Gest

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

Grease is to slide into the Piccadilly theatre this summer, opening on 8 August after previews from 25 July.

The musical, which follows the highs and lows of a group of students in their final year at Rydell High, is a revival of the 1993 production which ran in the West End for six years. This time around, the actors playing the lead roles of Danny and Sandy – immortalised in the 1978 film by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John – will be chosen through a reality television programme on ITV called Grease Is The Word, led by the show’s co-producer and head judge David Ian, which begins in April.

Last year Ian entered the reality TV arena by sitting on the judging panel of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, the Graham Norton-fronted BBC programme in which Ian and Andrew Lloyd Webber cast unknown Connie Fisher into the role of Maria in their new production of The Sound Of Music through a public vote.

Parting with the BBC and Lloyd Webber, Ian has called on Syco TV, the production company of the sharp-tongued king of televised talent contests, Simon Cowell, to co-produce Grease Is The Word with Talkback Thames for ITV. Cowell is the highly recognisable face of reality shows Pop Idol, American Idol and The X Factor.

Auditions have already taken place across the UK to find the participants for Grease Is The Word, which is expected to follow the now-familiar reality format. The eventual winners are chosen through a process of public voting, which week-by-week whittles down the contestants, who have to perform in front of a panel of judges, a studio audience and the viewers at home. Ian is joined on the judging panel by American producer and ex-husband of Liza Minelli, David Gest, who made his first foray into British reality television last year in I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, American choreographer Brian Friedman and 80s pop star Sinitta, who has appeared alongside Cowell in The X Factor and has several West End credits.

The programme is presented by television and radio presenter and former Strictly Come Dancing participant Zoë Ball, with Holly Willoughby fronting the ITV2 spin off show, Greased Lightnin’.

The winners will lead the cast of the stage show, which is directed by David Gilmore and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, who also designed the dancing in The Sound Of Music and is no stranger to reality TV herself, having judged BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Grease Is The Word isn’t the only theatrical reality show to occupy our screens this year. Ian’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? collaborator Lloyd Webber is returning to the format to cast the leads in a West End production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Dates for this production and the television programme, entitled Any Dream Will Do, have not yet been confirmed.

Currently at the Piccadilly is Guys And Dolls, which ends its run on 14 April.

CB

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