Broadway

Grease

Logo of Grease the musical

Grease is a raw and raunchy musical created by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, named after the 1950’s United States working-class youth subculture called the greasers. It’s one of the world’s most popular musicals with a cult-like following, especially among teens. Its score borrowed a lot from the sounds of early rock and roll. It became the soundtrack of the ’70s to ’80s generation – especially when the film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John became a success worldwide. It brought us the beloved hit songs “You’re the One that I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Summer Nights,” and “Greased Lightinin'”

The musical tackles social issues like peer pressure, gang violence, and teenage pregnancy, with themes including friendship, love, teenage rebellion, and sexual exploration. The musical was set in1959 at the fictional Rydell High School, based on William Howard Taft School in Chicago.

Production History

Grease was first performed in 1971 in the Kingston Mines nightclub in Chicago, which was since demolished. The script was based on Jim Jacob’s high school experience at William Taft High School. Together with Warren Casey, they wrote the music and the lyrics. The original production was directed by Guy Barile, and choreographed by Ronna Kaye. It ran in Chicago for eight months.

After Chicago, the show was produced in Broadway and became a West End hit. It was also followed by a successful feature film and two popular Broadway revivals. The musical is Broadway’s 16th longest-running show.

Grease was also produced in Australia, Argentina, France, Mexico, Spain, and even in the seas at the Royal Caribbean.

Original Broadway production

When theater producers Maxine Fox and Ken Waissman saw the show, they made a deal to produce Grease off-Broadway. Though it opened in an off-Broadway location, it did so under first-class Broadway contracts, so the show was deemed eligible for the 1972 Tony Awards. In then moved to Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre in 1972. By the time Grease closed in April 1980, it had run 3,388 performances. For a while, it was the longest-running show yet in Broadway history but was surpassed by A Chorus Line in September 1983.

The original Broadway cast included:

  • Barry Bostwick as Danny Zuko
  • Carole Demas as Sandy Dumbrowski
  • Adrienne Barbeau as Betty Rizzo
  • Timothy Meyers as Kenickie
  • James Canning as Doody
  • Jim Borrelli as Sonny LaTierri
  • Walter Bobbie as Roger
  • Marya Small as Frenchy
  • Katie Hanley as Marty
  • Garn Stephens as Jan
  • Dorothy Leon as Miss Lynch
  • Tom Harris as Eugene Florczyk
  • Ilene Kristen as Patty Simcox
  • Kathi Moss as Charlene “Cha-Cha” DiGregorio
  • Don Billett as Vince Fontaine
  • Alan Paul as Johnny Casino / Teen Angel

Original London production

Grease made its London debut at the New London Theatre in June 1973, with a cast that included:

  • Richard Gere/Patrick Swayze as Danny Zuko
  • Stacey Gregg as Sandy Dumbrowski
  • Jacquie-Ann Carr as Betty Rizzo
  • Peter Armitage as Kenickie
  • Derek James as Doody
  • Doug Fisher as Sonny LaTierri
  • Stephen Bent as Roger
  • Felicity Harrison as Frenchy
  • Hilary Labow as Marty
  • Colette Kelly as Jan
  • Ann Way as Miss Lynch
  • Stephen Marsh as Eugene Florczyk
  • Claire Faulcon Bridge as Patty Simcox
  • Olwen Hughes as Charlene “Cha-Cha” DiGregorio
  • Roy Desmond as Vince Fontaine
  • Steve Alder as Johnny Casino / Teen Angel

1994 Broadway revival

Grease was revived twice in Broadway, but the 1994 version was highly popular. It ran for 1,505 performances. It was directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun. The featured cast includes:

  • Ricky Paull Goldin as Danny Zuko
  • Susan Wood as Sandy Dumbrowski
  • Rosie O’Donnel/Brooke Shields as Betty Rizzo
  • Jason Opsahl as Kenickie
  • Sam Harris as Doody
  • Carlos Lopez as Sonny LaTierri
  • Hunter Foster as Roger
  • Jessica Stone as Frenchy
  • Megan Mullally as Marty
  • Heather Stokes as Jan
  • Marcia Lewis as Miss Lynch
  • Michelle Blakely as Patty Simcox
  • Sandra Purpuro as Charlene “Cha-Cha” DiGregorio
  • Brian Bradley as Vince Fontaine
  • Paul Castree as Johnny Casino
  • Billy Porter as Teen Angel

After the Broadway production, a US national tour followed, which ran for several years.

Plot Overview

The story of Grease revolves around Rydell High School’s Senior class, but the heart of the story is the romance between the innocent new girl Sandy and hot-rodding gangster Danny.

Before the school year, Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski fall for each other in a summer fling. When school started, the too-cool-for-school “Burger Palace Boys,” led by Danny, are back to their habit of acting tough and stealing hub caps. Meanwhile, the Pink Ladies, led by Betty Rizzo, meet the newly transferred good-girl Sandy at school. Danny and Sandy did not expect to meet each other and be at the same school. Once attracted to her wholesome ways, Danny now rejects Sandy to protect his macho image. Sandy struggles to belong in her new school, being mocked by Rizzo and her group. Due to peer pressure and cliques, Danny and Sandy’s romance becomes a bit more complicated.

Songs

Original Broadway production

Act I

  • “Alma Mater” – Miss Lynch, Patty, Eugene and Company
  • “Alma Mater (Parody)” – Pink Ladies and Burger Palace Boys
  • “Summer Nights” – Sandy, Danny, Pink Ladies, and Burger Palace Boys
  • “Those Magic Changes” – Pink Ladies and Burger Palace Boys
  • “Freddy, My Love” – Marty and Pink Ladies
  • “Greased Lightnin'” – Kenickie and Burger Palace Boys
  • “Rydell Fight Song” – Sandy and Patty
  • “Mooning” – Roger and Jan
  • “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” – Pink Ladies and Rizzo
  • “We Go Together” – Company

Act II

  • “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” – Company
  • “It’s Raining on Prom Night” – Sandy and Radio Singer
  • “Shakin’ at the High School Hop (Reprise)” – Company
  • “Born to Hand Jive” – Johnny Casino and Company
  • “Beauty School Dropout” – Teen Angel, Frenchy and Choir
  • “Alone at a Drive-in Movie” – Danny and Burger Palace Boys
  • “Rock’ N’ Roll Party Queen” – Doody and Roger
  • “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” – Rizzo
  • “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)” – Sandy
  • “All Choked Up” – Sandy, Danny, Pink Ladies, and Burger Palace Boys
  • “We Go Together (Reprise)” – Company

Awards

Original Broadway production

  • Outstanding Choreography, Drama Desk Award (1972) – Patricia Birch
  • Outstanding Costume Design, Drama Desk Award (1972) – Carrie Robbins
  • Theatre World Award (1972) – Adrienne Barbeau

1994 Broadway revival

  • Theatre World Award (1994) – Brooke Shields

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