Grease is the one that we want
PUBLISHED: 09:02 22 November 2011
They are best known for appearing on the X Factor and Dancing On Ice. Now Rhydian Roberts and Robin Cousins are readying themselves to sing like an angel by sharing a role in the latest production of musical favourite Grease. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH reports.
When he appeared on the X Factor he made no secret of the heights he hoped to achieve — now Rhydian Roberts is about to descend from above as the Teen Angel in Grease.
The classically-trained opera singer, who came second in the television talent show back in 2007, will perform the role in the stage musical at the Theatre Royal, from November 22-26.
Olympic skating champion and Dancing on Ice judge Robin Cousins will take on the part in the second week of the run from November 28 to December 3.
“I am delighted to be appearing in Grease,” says Rhydian. “Although I think the film is great I do prefer the stage version as it is faster moving and they have added some awesome songs.”
Following its box office breaking four-year London run, and for the first time in over five years, the hit West End show began a new tour earlier this year.
It premiered at the Edinburgh Playhouse and will continue to rock the UK and Ireland well into 2012. It arrives in Norwich with Danny Bayne, thwe winner of ITV’s Grease Is The Word and star of Hairspray, in the role of Danny Zuko and Carina Gillespie as Sandy.
Co-creators Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey were friends for seven years before they collaborated on Grease back in the early 1970s. It was over a beer at a party that the idea first surfaced. Reacting against traditional, show-tune type melodies, they amused themselves by imagining a new kind of musical on Broadway, with music from the late 1950s and characters from the golden days of rock‘n’roll.
Grease had its première in 1972 and in 1979 took the record as the longest-running show in the history of Broadway. The hit film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, proved to be the highest-grossing movie musi-cal ever.
Grease returned to the West End in July 2007, and, during its triumphant run, it played over 1,500 performances and was seen by more than 1.5 million theatregoers at the Piccadilly Theatre, where became the longest running show in the venue’s history.
“In this version, the guys in the cast are sensational and it is a show where there are some great male parts,” says Rhydian. “I love being the Teen Angel.
“It is a role that has traditionally gone to a celebrity and one where you come on for four minutes and really strut your stuff without having the pressure you might have in another lead part.”
He does, in fact, describe the role as “light relief” from the rest of his busy life as a stage performer, recording artist and television presenter.
Following his X-Factor success, the singer went on to sign a record deal with Sony BMG. His debut album, Rhydian, was released in 2008 and went double platinum.
The following year he completed a 27-date sell-out solo tour of the UK and saw his second album O Fortuna go gold and receive a nomination at the Classical Brit Awards for Best Album of the year 2010.
In recent times, he has performed at arenas and concert venues around the country with some of the world’s biggest artists including The Stereophonics, Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Bryn Terfel and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and at major events including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 60th Birthday Party in Hyde Park, and the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup.
“I am incredibly busy but I do like to do a bit of everything as long as I am doing good work,” he admits.
“After seven weeks in Grease I will go back into We Will Rock You, where I play the role of Khashoggi. Then my new album, on which I sing some big Welsh classics, comes out at Christmas.”
Rhydian was also given his own television programme earlier this year, on Welsh channel S4C. An hour-long talent and entertainment series, it also sees him chat to guests and sing.
“It was an offer I just couldn’t refuse,” he admits. “It is good to be able to do all these different things. I am young and it is a long life - and all this is a great way of serving my apprenticeship. We cannot all have careers like Be-yonce.”
Unlike so many who expect success to come quickly and easily through programmes such as the X Factor, Rhydian is certainly not afraid of hard work.
“I really have loved these past four years and think I am doing fantastically well - but there is always more I can do.
“I would love to have a really good hit song that I am known for, for example, something anthemic perhaps, and that is associated with a sporting occasion. I would also love to do an arena tour.”
And he adds: “I am very happy with everything I am doing at the moment but those are attainable things.
“There are lots of things I have not done yet that I would like to do — and I am always ready for the next challenge.”
ICE SKATING TO GREASE LIGHTNING
With so many successes behind him it seems as though everything Robin Cousins touches turns to gold — and now he’s hoping to achieve a glittering moment in Grease as well.
Former world class skater and Olympic gold medal winner Robin will be starring as the Teen Angel, taking over from Rhydian Roberts for the second week of the run, to descend from above and offer his heavenly advice.
Robin, 54, who is also currently known for his role as the head judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, played the part a year and a half ago, when the show was at the Piccadilly Theatre, in the West End.
He’s looking forward to donning his angelic suit and picking up the microphone once again. “It was great fun be-fore. It was one of those shows I had known and loved for a long time and it was terrific to be in it,” he says. “It is a very fresh, young show and it offers the opportunity to have fun with the audience.”
But he adds: “I do have to sing the song, of course. It is harder for me than for a singer who has the part of the Teen Angel but it is fine – and it’s lovely when I do get a reaction from the crowd.”
Robin achieved notoriety when he won the World Free Skating Championship gold medal in 1978, 1979 and 1980, along with World Championship silver and European Championship gold.
He then famously went on to win the Olympic Gold Medal at Lake Placid in 1980. That year, for his services to sport and skating, he was awarded the MBE.
A highly successful career as a professional skater followed, appearing as special guest star with Holiday on Ice, with whom he set new, and currently unbroken, box office records for attendance levels over a six-week season at Wembley Arena and also making many special guest appearances with Ice Capades in the USA.
Away from the ice, and perhaps less generally well known, he did also go on to forge a very successful theatrical career, including starring as Munkustrap in Cats, Frank ‘N’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Show and the Prince in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. He also played the role of Jack Frost in Santa Claus.
Robin also went on to set up his own ice company, choreographing hugely successful shows, such as Electric Ice, which toured worldwide and enjoyed a 14-week, sell-out run at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre.
“I love being busy. I like putting myself out there and doing as much as possible,” he admits.
His role as head judge on the ever-popular Dancing on Ice, which will see a seventh series aired next year, barely counts as work, however, he stresses.
“It is wonderful. I just have to turn up on a Sunday to take part and enjoy it,” he says.
Neither he nor his fellow skating champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean ever thought the television com-petition would be such a runaway success, he admits.
“We didn’t think it would grow to become what it has - or that there would ever be a seventh series,” he says. “But it has been a terrific way of getting people interested in skating again.”
Tropicana, the 10th production he has directed and choreographed through his own company, arrives in the UK in January, from Germany, where it opened to rave reviews.
“It is going to be a busy year next year. I would love to do some more musicals too, and have recently set up a production company for theatrical productions,” he says. “There is a lot happening but I would never agree to do something if I thought I couldn’t deliver.”
GREASE LIGHTNING — QUICK FACTS
t Grease opened on February 14, 1972 at the Eden Theatre, New York.
t The film opened in the USA in 1978 and grossed over $400 million.
t You’re The One That I Want reached top of the UK charts for nine weeks in 1978, followed by a seven week stint with Summer Nights later the same year.
t Richard Gere was unknown in 1973 when he came to London to play Danny Zuko: he had previously been un-derstudying the role on Broadway. Paul Nicholas, co-Producer of this latest production, took over the role from Gere.
t In 1973 Elaine Paige took over the role of Sandy playing opposite Paul Nicholas.
t Su Pollard and Tracy Ullman both appeared in the 1979 London revival at the Astoria playing Cha-Cha and Fren-chy.
t Grease was revived in 1993 with former Neighbours star Craig Maclachlan playing Danny and Debbie Gibson playing Sandy.
t The show has since been seen by over 10 million people and has grossed over £165 million in the UK alone.
t Other actors who have played Danny include Shane Richie, Luke Goss, Darren Day, Steven Houghton, Ben Richards and Jonathan Wilkes.
t Other actresses who have played Sandy include Sonia, Samantha Janus, Shona Lindsay, Hayley Flaherty, Caro-line Sheen, Hayley Evetts and Suzanne Carley.
t There are a total of 142 costume changes in the show. These include 16 leather jackets and 59 wigs. Some 720 white T- shirts are washed per month.
t 10 jumbo cans of hairspray and 8 pots of gel are used each week.
■ Grease is at Norwich Theatre Royal from November 22-December 3, £29.50-£6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
■ Rhydian stars at Teen Angel from November 22-26. Robin Cousins takes over the role from November 28-December 3.