London's ''Joseph'' and ''Grease'' revivals | EW.com

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London's ''Joseph'' and ''Grease'' revivals

We grade the London revivals of ''Joseph'' and ''Grease,'' both starring actors selected by reality-TV viewers

London’s ”Joseph” and ”Grease” revivals

After solving the problem of casting the role of Maria in last year’s West End production of The Sound of Music via a reality-television competition — out of which telephone salesperson Connie Fisher was propelled to overnight stardom — the idea has now become habit-forming.

Enter Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Grease, revivals of revivals (from 1991 and 1993, respectively) featuring stars that would be cast, again, by TV viewers. Adding another wrinkle to the competition: The programs went head-to-head, airing simultaneously on public broadcaster BBC (Joseph) and commercial network ITV (Grease).

Joseph was the ratings winner and has also created the bigger star. ”Anyone from anywhere can make it/ If they get a lucky break,” sings the dream-struck title character in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s earliest pop oratorio. Lee Mead — stripped to a loincloth to reveal a buffed-up torso, his pretty-boy face offset by an unruly mop of dark curly hair — is living proof of the power of dreams. He’s picture-perfect and, with his resonant voice, pitch-perfect.

Danny and Sandy in Grease, meanwhile, are supposed to go together like ”ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.” But the 19- and 24-year-old discoveries Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden aren’t heating up any summer nights; they’re mismatched in every way. Individually they’re fine, but stuck in a production that’s too loud and too knowing, their sweet innocence is its own reproof to a cynical marketing opportunity masquerading as a talent show. Joseph: B-; Grease: C+

(Tickets: Joseph: 01144 870 895 5598; Grease: 01144 844 412 6666)