Review: Cool Rider at the London Palladium ★★★★★

Review: Cool Rider at the London Palladium ★★★★★

A decade on from its barnstorming West End debut, Cool Rider returns for one night only and blows the roof off of the Palladium.

Back in 2014, one of our theatrical experiences of the year was the very first concert performance of Cool Rider at the Lyric Theatre. Starring Aaron Sidwell and Ashleigh Gray in the Grease 2 roles originated by Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer, this loving adaptation wowed adoring fans of the much-maligned musical sequel – and now, ten years on, Sidwell & Gray returned alongside Cauldfield himself in a celebratory reunion extravaganza.

Playing to an audience mostly comprised, it seemed, of Grease 2 aficionados, this return of Cool Rider to one of the West End’s grandest stages was a joyous, tongue-in-cheek love-in from start to finish. Sidwell and Gray slotted straight back into the roles of Michael and Stephanie like they had been playing the roles every night of the year, and newcomer Kitty Scott-Claus gave a character-redefining portrayal of Frenchie. Maxwell Caulfield really steals the show though, effectively narrating proceedings in the role of Mr Stewart and leading a crowd-pleasing rendition of the iconic song ‘Reproduction’.

Review: Cool Rider at the London Palladium ★★★★★ 1

All the hits are here: ‘Back To School’, ‘Score Tonight’, ‘Do It For Our Country’, ‘Girl For All Seasons’, ‘Rock-A-Hula-Luau’ – no fan of the film is left disappointed. But of course there are highlights, not least a ladder-straddling performance of ‘Cool Rider’, and mass sing-along moments in the irresistibly catchy ‘Who’s That Guy?’.

Concert performances of shows can sometimes feel a bit phoned-in, but as with that night at the Lyric a decade back, this latest performance of Cool Rider goes far above and beyond what you might hope for, let alone expect. There are spot-on costumes, cleverly choreographed dance routines, a top-notch live band and a well-rehearsed cast who have clearly given this one-off show a lot of time and effort.

Cool Rider truly deserves a longer run – and these songs, and the fun story they tell, are overdue reassessment and fresh appreciation. Let’s hope this reunion inspires further performances of this five star show!