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Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

1:13 PM - Feb 05, 2009 #1

HISTORY ~ from the GREASE London Playbill


It was in Chicago, Illinois, circa March/April 1970. At a cast party for some long-forgotten show – just for a laugh – I pulled out some of my old 45 records for the 1950s. These songs sounded extremely dated compared to the very hip, psychedelic funk of 1970 but it was a change of pace amongst the repetitious favorite dance tunes of the day. It was after singing along to several of these old, scratchy 45s by the likes of Little Richard, Dion and the Belmonts, and The Flamingos, that I first suggested to Warren Casey what a funny idea I thought it would be to see a Broadway musical that utilized this type of score i.e. the basic a capella/falsetto/doo-wops/hic-cupping/R&B music of the late 50s instead of the traditional, ‘legit’ show tune type of melodies of the Great White Way. Warren raised the rather obvious question: “Yeah, but what would the show be about?”

A few beers later – with daylight rapidly approaching – I hit upon the idea that it should be about the kids I went to high school with, mainly the ‘greasers’ and their girlfriends, back in the golden days of rock ‘n’ roll. Harking back to a lifestyle that seemed centered on hairstyles (oily, gooey, foiffs), the food (cheap, fatty, hamburgers and soggy fries) and cool custom cars (more gunk and sludge) or any and all things ‘greasy” – I suggested we call it Grease.

Originally Warren laughed and dismissed the whole idea as a wild pipe dream, when the fickle finger of fate suddenly entered the picture. A week later, Warren was fired from his day job as a branch manager of several retail shops. Now, with time on his hands, he sat down at a typewriter and began to write a rough sketch (the girls’ pajama party scene) for what would ultimately become the longest-running show in Broadway history.

Collaborating on the book, music and lyrics, we set about creating a story which poked good-natured fun at all those Hollywood JD/Rock ‘n’ Roll movies of the 1950s. Warren (an ex-high school teacher in the 1950s) wrote songs that parodied the primitive sounds of the early rockers whilst I (an ex-greaser student in the 1950s) composed tunes that I felt paid imitative homage to the originals.

Little Known Fact: Grease is probably the only hit Broadway musical ever composed entirely on guitar. On February 5th 1971 in Chicago, Grease opened in a damp, drafty, former trolley barn called the Kingston Mines Theatre. A non-professional cast of 18 actors (in a $171 budget production!) played the first of its scheduled ‘four performances only’ to a full house of 120 seats. Almost immediately the show was extended…then again, and again, and again. The rest, as they say, is history.

A year later, on February 14th 1972, Grease opened in New York. Within six months a national tour crossed the US and Canada. A company opened in Australia. The first London production opened at the New London Theatre with a young, unknown Richard Gere as Danny Zuko (the role eventually assumed by current co-producer Paul Nicholas). Soon the foreign productions, touring companies and stock and amateur groups seemed to span the globe.

The huge success of the motion picture in 178 resulted in a whole new legion of Grease fanatics – young kids. (The movie version of Grease holds the record for ‘more concessions sold’ than any other film in motion picture history). But enough about statistics and records. What grease is really all about – more than anything else – is having fun. So, just sit back, kick off your blue suede shoes, and relax. Have a ball! Grease is, after all, a celebration.

A party of the best kind. It was fun then, but it’s just as much fun now!

Dig? See ya’ later, alligator!

A Remembrance

By Jim Jacobs

Warren Casey and I first met at a small Chicago community theatre in the spring of 1963. We were both budding young amateur actors cast in a memorably bad production of A Shot in the Dark.

Although Warren was eight years older than me, and a recently transplanted New Yorker, we hit it off immediately and within a year he had become my undisputed best friend. Few people realise how long we knew each other (seven years) before our collaboration on Grease began.

During the course of the next 25 years our friendship and professional partnership never ceased to continually remind me of one basic truth - "This guy's a genius". Maths, science, art, literature, music - it didn't matter - he knew it, and he knew it well. He was, without question, the funniest man I have ever known in my life. No one has ever made me laugh as much, and as often, as Warren Casey. I'm often reminded by my wife of the time Warren showed up quite unexpectedly in Las Vegas, moments before my second marriage was to take place. (He had been Best Man at my first wedding thirteen years earlier). With the scheduled ceremony about to begin I hastily asked Warren if he'd like to be my Best Man once again. "Sure. Why not?" he dead-panned, "It's a tradition".

I remember the first time we came to London. Warren thought it was great; especially what he considered the royal treatment designed just for him. "It seems wherever I go I have my own personal dressing room. Have you noticed my initials, W C, on doors everywhere we go?"!

In November 1988, Warren Casey passed away. The loss to those of us who knew him (and to theatre fans everywhere) is immeasurable. His humour, his songs and his lyrics will continue to live on every night, somewhere in the world, wherever Grease is being performed.

You can rest assured that Warren is here in spirit... just the way we always remember him. ... ntID=24056

An Interview with Mr. Jacobs.

'A little bit of copping a feel'
Melissa Leong, National Post
Published: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Jim Jacobs

Seven years before Grease became the highest-grossing movie musical ever, it opened at the Kingston Mines Theater, a former trolley barn in Chicago, as an explicit, satirical look at teenage gangs and the music they loved. It was not "all pastel colours and lollipops," co-creator Jim Jacobs says of his musical, which opens in Toronto tonight. The 67-year-old talked to Melissa Leong about being a "guitar-playing greaser" and the meaning behind "shoo bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom."

Q How did you get the idea to write this musical?

A It began one night in my apartment at a cast party with my late partner, Warren Casey. We were having drinks and people were starting to fall asleep on the floor. I dragged out an old shopping bag of my old 45s from the '50s: Little Richard, Dion and the Belmonts, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis. Of course, the hippies started groaning. I said to Warren, "Wouldn't it be great to do a Broadway show using this kind of music instead of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe stuff?" Q I hear that the characters are based on people in your neighbourhood.

A The Burger Palace Boys were a fictitious group of guys that I hung out with. They were tough guys, stealing cars and getting into gang fights. In the movie, they put jackets with "T-Birds" on the guys. The deal in Chicago where I grew up was if the guys wore leather jackets, the Chicago police would take them and burn them. I remember getting caught with a couple of guys stealing hub caps and we witnessed the burning of 200 jackets in the alley behind the station. Q Did these tough guys come to see your show?

A Of course, they think they're stars. But they had a million criticisms. "Well, we had you break out into a dance because it's entertaining," I said. "Yeah well, I look like a sissy." Two different worlds. Q What happened to them? A What do you suppose happens to the working class? Some went off to Vietnam and were killed. Some died young. There aren't many happy stories. When my ex-wife met [the real Rizzo] at a high-school reunion, she looked like Cher as Laverne with the leopard-skin pants. My ex-wife asked if she still lived in Chicago. She said, "No, I live in Florida. I just came up here to see my husband. He's on death row."

Q How does the musical that we are seeing in Toronto compare to the 1971 version?

A The original show has a bunch of tougher, grittier, rougher, foulmouthed louts and less music and less exploitation of the dances of the period. It was almost documentary-like with rock 'n' roll music and the teenage gangs of the 1950s. It lead to a great misunderstanding by many critics and people about the show and the ending of the show where they think suddenly good-girl Sandy becomes a wanton slut.

Q By the way, what the heck is We Go Together about?

A The idea of it was to incorporate all of the nonsense lyrics that I could think of from songs in the '50s. We go together like rama-lama-lama kading-it-y ding dong. It's like sterling on silver. White on rice. That was the point of the teenage gang. You really feel like this is your first family away from your real family that you'll always be together.

Q If you could change anything about the modern edition, what would it be?

A I'd bring it back to the language that it initially had when it opened on Broadway in 1972. Rough. A lot of effin this and up yours and a little bit of copping a feel. It added authenticity to who these people are. "Aw shucks" doesn't quite make it.


Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

11:19 AM - Mar 19, 2009 #2

Follow up comments by Mr. Jacobs on the present production of Grease

Hopelessly devoted to 'Grease'
Co-creator Jim Jacobs on the long life of a hit musical
by Richard Dodds

The surviving creator of Grease, the stage musical, found he had to make peace with Grease, the movie musical, even though Jim Jacobs and his late creative partner Warren Casey felt they were dealt a hand of broken promises by the moviemakers.

"Warren and I were both perturbed about it," Jacobs said of the sanitized, suburbanized screen adaptation of what had begun as a somewhat raunchy send-up of juvenile-delinquent movies of the 1950s. But the success of the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was so enormous that it completely changed the playing field for the stage original.

"It was an enormous problem when the movie came out," Jacobs said, "because we were still running on Broadway and people realized, hey, it's on stage, let's bring the kids, and suddenly there's some vulgar language, someone's grabbing a girl's boobs, a character might be pregnant, and the kids are smoking and drinking beer."

Over the years, the stage musical has evolved to more closely resemble the movie, including the addition of such non-Jacobs/Casey songs as "You're the One That I Want" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" that were written for the film. "I spent an entire summer rewriting the whole show to try to movie-ize it, so to speak," Jacobs said.

It was the success of the movie that has prompted thousands of productions of the musical, sustaining Jacobs in a flow of royalty checks, and gave impetus to two major Broadway revivals. The most recent opened in 2007, and chalked up 554 performances before closing in January and spawning a touring company that arrives March 24 at the Golden Gate Theatre. While the leading characters of Danny and Sandy were cast by viewers' votes during the run of the NBC reality show Grease: You're the One That I Want, the touring production was populated via traditional casting methods.

"We were sorry that the two people who won the thing didn't go on to do the national tour because, obviously, the votes came in from everywhere in the country," said Jacobs, who was one of the on-air judges along with director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall and producer David Ian. "The guy, Max Crumm, thought he was going to be Brad Pitt in a day or something and went back to Los Angeles, and the girl, Laura Osnes, just wanted to pursue a career on Broadway."

And who will we be seeing in San Francisco? "The girl playing Sandy [Emily Padgett] was the Broadway understudy, and she's fine," Jacobs said. "The guy [Eric Schneider] was a whole new find out of auditions in New York."

For the tour, the above-the-title star billing goes to Taylor Hicks, an American Idol winner, who plays the showcase role of Teen Angel. "Something that has raised a little controversy is that Taylor wants to do at least one song from his new album after the show is over, and that seems sort of anti-climactic to me because it has nothing to do with Grease. We're still pulling and tugging on which way it's going to go."

Jacobs doesn't mince words about his initial reaction to the idea of a reality casting show for Grease. "I hated it," he said, "and kept saying no for years. Finally, my entertainment lawyer said, 'Jeez, they did this thing over in England on TV casting Maria for The Sound of Music, and it worked out pretty good.' Finally he got it so I had a lot of control, and it was the kind of offer you couldn't refuse moneywise."

His reluctance mirrored the criticism that the concept evoked in the Broadway community, and later in London where another reality-show-inspired production of Grease is still running. "It was difficult because you're constantly trying to justify that what you're doing is a legitimate form of casting a show," he said. "And the so-called legitimate theater community was like, if you let people sitting at home belching and farting in front of the TV vote for who is going to be the lead in a play, then what's our function?"

Even though the reality show fared poorly in the ratings, it still provided the revival with an invaluable promotional hook. But there were tensions between the television and Broadway interests. "Like, they were continually prompting us to be more mean to the contestants," Jacobs said. "They wanted more of a Simon Cowell thing from us, so they could get the kids crying in the wings."

But despite the trepidations and tribulations, Jacobs pronounced himself happy with the final product. "This one is pretty slick, I must admit. I'm quite fond of it, more so than I have been over the last 20 years. Kathleen and I spent a lot of time together on it, and she wanted to bring it back to more like the original, which she called 'the darker version,' but she didn't get as gritty as the original one because you can't, because of all these years of family values and political correctness and all that stuff."

The very first version of Grease opened in 1971 at a small Chicago theater, something of a lark created by two aspiring actors, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, both of whom had day jobs. Within a year it was on Broadway, and while Jacobs and Casey worked on several subsequent projects, Grease was to be their only Broadway musical. Casey, a part-time San Francisco resident, died of AIDS in 1988.

Jacobs now lives in Southern California with his third wife and their 7-year-old son. Managing the Grease empire is pretty much a full-time job, and Jacobs isn�t interested in adding to his creative resume.

"Most of the offers I get now are from people trying to get me back into being an actor," he said. "They say, 'Oh, you were such a great actor. I'm so sorry you got rich and lazy.' And I say, 'Yeah, and I'm old and fat, too. Now leave me alone.'"

03/19/2009 ... rticle=502

Here is another jaw dropping secret of “Grease”: the original show was five hours long! It was cut down to two hours for showing it in New York theatres. The original show had no big star cast either. The actors were amateur with dreams of making it big on Broadway. (Moreover, how they did!) In addition to this, the sets were not an extravagant affair. A humble garage backdrop was the choice.


Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

11:45 AM - Oct 27, 2009 #3

Internationally Successful

Grease had its Broadway première in 1972 and has triumphed throughout the world. In 1979 Grease took over the record as the longest-running show in the history of Broadway and the hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John proved to be the highest-grossing movie musical ever.

The co-creators, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, were friends for seven years before they collaborated on Grease and it was over a beer at a party when the idea first surfaced. Reacting against the "traditional, 'legit' show-tune type melodies of the Great White Way", Jacobs and Casey amused themselves imagining this new kind of musical on Broadway, with music from the late Fifties and characters from the golden days of rock 'n' roll.

Perhaps through fate (Casey lost his job soon after and, having time on his hands, began to write a rough sketch), Casey and Jacobs created a story with music and lyrics which challenged the existing concept of musicals whilst establishing itself as a new kind of 'classic'. It was in an experimental theatre in Chicago on February 5 1971 that they finally tried their idea out on the public, with a title evoking the style of the late 1950s - slicked- back hair and fatty fast-food: Grease.

Despite a slightly shaky beginning, an all-amateur cast in a former tram shed with newspapers for seats, the audiences kept returning with friends and relatives, until Grease proved more profitable than any previous show the theatre had produced. With discouragement from friends and encouragement from Broadway producer Ken Waissman and partner Maxine Fox, Casey and Jacobs recognised that to maximise the show's potential they would have to give up their day jobs and move to New York.

One year after the first production Grease opened at the Eden Theatre, just off Broadway, but not with the success hoped for. Although the public loved it, the critics - in particular the New York Times - gave the show lukewarm reviews and the Tony Awards committee ruled that Grease was ineligible for nomination because the Eden did not qualify as a Broadway theatre, being several blocks away from Broadway proper. However, the producers disagreed and threatened to sue the committee, which promptly backed down. Grease consequently received seven Tony nominations, moved to Broadway proper and never looked back.

Although in the smash hit film of 1978 John Travolta was to play Danny Zuko, in the 1972 tour across the US and Canada the 17 year old Travolta played Doody, the nerdy kid who idolises Danny. When the show opened in London it was the then unknown Richard Gere who played the cool Danny, with Stacey Gregg as Sandy, followed by Paul Nicholas and Elaine Paige in the lead roles.

Everywhere it opened Grease struck a universal chord with its irresistible mix of adolescent angst, vibrant physicality and 1950s pop culture. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey created a perfect period piece - a pastiche of the 1950s: "fast, furious and thrilling, an injection of raw energy... and fun, fun, fun", according to The Daily Mirror

The new production of Grease, which incorporated all the hit songs from the movie, opened at the Dominion Theatre in 1993 starring Craig Maclachlan as Danny Zuko. Having been discovered in Neighbours the producers realised that Craig exuded the charm that was essential for the character of Danny. They had already seen 800 girls for the part of Sandy, but when introduced to American actress Debbie Gibson she was offered the part immediately. The show was taken on tour in 1997 starring Shane Richie and then Ian Kelsey as Danny Zuko and due to its success ran again with Luke Goss heading the cast.

Celebrating twenty years of 'Grease' mania, the film (produced by Robert Stigwood and Alan Carr) was re-released in the summer of 1998.

The London production finished in 1999 after six successful years whilst the tour continued in 2000 with Steven Houghton as Danny. Since then the show has continuously toured throughout the UK, with two hugely successful returns to the West End. In October 2001, with Craig Urbani as Danny, Grease returned home to the Dominion Theatre, and in September 2002 a limited season started at the Victoria Palace Theatre with Greg Kahout as Danny and Lee Latchford-Evans as Teen Angel. The show was such a success that its run was extended three times and played to packed houses until September 2003 (with Ben Richards taking over the part of Danny Zuko from January 2003).

2003 saw Paramount Home Entertainment release a 25th Anniversary DVD of Grease. It went on to sell more than 750,000 copies - the highest DVD sales ever!

In October 2003 Grease made its first Japanese tour, playing to packed houses in Tokyo and Osaka. The show then returned to the UK for a sold out 5-week Christmas season at Manchester's Palace Theatre with Jonathan Wilkes as Danny and Hayley Evetts as Sandy. Last Christmas also saw Grease being voted "The No 1 Greatest Musical" by ‘100 Greatest Musicals' on Channel 4 TV.

In January 2004 Grease embarked on another UK tour with Ben Richards as Danny and Suzanne Carley as Sandy, and it continues to smash records wherever it goes - The highest capacity one-week show at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall - broke the box office record, previously held by Cats, in Sunderland - sold out in Bristol 7 weeks prior to arrival - The first show to sell out before arrival, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, since Showboat 12 years ago.

Talking of the show's appeal and purpose, the director David Gilmore explains, "Grease doesn't have a message ... it gives a flavour of being a teenager in the 50s when rock'n'roll and putting grease on your hair were the most important things in life and this is the level that we should take it on."

Grease has maintained its everlasting popularity, proving that teenage angst and love's young dream remain timeless and universal themes.

Be there or be square!

Little Known Fact: Grease is probably the only hit Broadway musical ever composed entirely on guitar.

But enough about statistics and records, what Grease is really all about - more than anything else - is having fun. So, just sit back, kick off your blue suede shoes, and relax. Have a ball! Grease is, after all, a celebration.

A party of the best kind, it was fun then, but it's just as much fun now.

Grease is now opeining in South America , as a new production is being cast .

Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

12:31 PM - Nov 17, 2009 #4

SUMMER NIGHTS : ORIGINAL CAST ... ram><param name=

Original Cast Album

Grease originally opened on Broadway in 1972. The unknown show had come from Chicago to off-Broadway, and finally moved to Broadway in June of that year. The cast were relatively unknown, with Barry Bostwick making his debut as a leading man and ending up with a Tony nomination. And there was Adrienne Barbeau playing Rizzo, the 'bad girl with the heart of gold.' The show ran for over seven years, or record-setting 3,388 performances, the longest run in Broadway history at the time, only to be surpassed two years later by A Chorus Line. Throughout the run, cast replacements included Jeff Conaway, Marilu Henner, Peter Gallagher, Patrick Swayze, John Travolta, (director) Jerry Zaks, and Treat Williams. Richard Gere was an understudy for many roles in this production. It opened in London the following year, and unknown understudy Richard Gere was cast as leading man Danny Zuko.

In 1994, Grease was called back to Broadway, a revival starring Rosie O'Donnell as Rizzo, soap hunk Ricky Paul Goldin as Danny, Star Search winner Sam Harris as Doody, and pre-Karen Walker Megan Mullally as Marty. This cast was meant to sell tickets, and that is what they did. Once Rosie left, she was replaced with Brooke Shields. Four months after the show opened, a US tour was in place, with former Monkey Davy Jones playing Vince Fontain, Brooke Shields as Rizzo [before she went to Broadway], Sally Struthers, Rex Smith, Mickey Dolenz, Adrian Zmed, Debbie Gibson, Lucy Lawless, Mackenzie Phillips and Jasmine Guy in the cast at various times.

In 2007, producers launched a reality television show to cast the next revival, the show called You're The One That I Want! The show eventually cast Max Crumm andn Laura Osnes and the show opened with a construct closer to the 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivaia Newton John than the previous Broadway productions, utilizing songs from the movie and story lines as well. Soon it was time for cast replacements to be made, and the casting of former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel, and former Idol finalist [and yesterday's birthday boy] Ace Young as Kenickie. Also, once the YTOTIW winners moved on, other contestants were brought in to play the leads.

The revival closed in January of 2009. The tour continues, with Taylor Hicks headlining for some time to come. As part of the 'finale,' Hicks sings several of his songs from his most recent album and hawks them in the lobby afterwards. ... rease.html

Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

8:37 PM - Dec 09, 2009 #5

While still in New York/ Broadway performing in Grease, he gave this interview with YOUNG HOLLYWOOD . It sort of covers the general aspects of Taylor's feelings about his role. ... rease.html


Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

3:00 PM - Dec 18, 2009 #6

[color=purple][size=150]With "Grease" being such a huge part of Taylor's life this year and as a result, a huge part of our lives; I post this tribute to the 1950's dance scene. "Grease" brought back THE HAND JIVE and THE STROLL and THE CHA CHA, but there were other notable dances.
In our spare time as we celebrate the Christmas Season , New Year's and the few weeks prior to Taylor's return to the "Grease " stage; we can practice our dance steps AND get rid of the extra calories accumulated during our excessive celebration.

I saved the best video for last.................. just a little levity !!![/size]

[color=purple]50’s Dance Steps [/color]

December 17th, 2009 by Ocianne Lambert

Looking for an idea for your next dance recital? Do a fifties theme and have a lot of fun with your students! There are many different dance styles during the 50s, but here we list our top favorites.

The Swing – Even though this dance was made famous in the 1920s, swing was still a popular choice is the 50s. Find some good jazz music from the era. Students will have a lot of fun with rhythm and energy swing dancing provides.

[color=purple]The Bop[/color]- The Bop is a popular dance move that is still used in many areas of England. Bop dancing relies a lot on heel and toe tapping. Have the children dance apart from one another with out holding hands while they alternate between dancing with one foot and tapping with the other.

[color=purple]The Stroll [/color]– This is a fun 50s dance that works with line dancers. A good idea for song choice would be “The Stroll” by The Diamonds. Have your dancers face each other and move with the music, and the audience will have a lot of fun watching them use more elaborate dance moves in between the two facing rows.

[color=purple]The Hand Jive[/color] – This dance is made popular because of the many hand and arm movements done to create a dancing pattern. A good example of a hand jive can be found in the movie or musical production of “Grease”. It is a lively dance that dancers will have fun performing.

[color=purple]The Cha Cha [/color]– The cha cha was made famous during the 1950s. A blend of Latin American dance steps, the Cha Cha uses the hips a lot during the dance moves. The kids will enjoy shaking their hips while counting ‘1, 2, cha-cha-cha’.

[color=purple]Rock and Roll –[/color] Rock and Roll dance is very athletic and originated from the Lindy Hop. Rock and Roll is choreographed, unlike the Lindy Hop, and is a great idea for a performance piece. This acrobatic style can work for all girl groups or couples. Use Rock-And-Roll music and let your dancers have fun.

[color=purple]The Madison [/color]– Another fun dance style made popular in the late 50s to mid 60s. Look for examples of The Madison in the movie Hairspray. They use a lot of their songs and dance routines from The Madison era.

Hip Hop 50’s Shop specializes in Children and Adult Poodle Skirts, crinoline slips, saddle oxford shoes and complete 50’s costumes for your dance or party. We are passionate about Sock Hops and the 1950’s, so our experts share tons of advice and tips on our blog. Come visit anytime.

[color=pruple][size=150]The Swing [/size][/color]


[url=][/url] How To

[color=purple][size=150]The Bop[/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150]The Stroll[/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150]The Hand Jive [/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150]The Cha Cha[/size][/color]

[url=">">[/url] HOW TO

[url=">">[/url] Cha Cha performance

[color=purple][size=150]The Twist: [/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150]The Madison [/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150]Rock and Roll ( Jitterbug ) [/size][/color]


[color=purple][size=150][size=150]The Taylor Dance [/size][/size][/color]



Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

2:21 PM - Jan 07, 2010 #7

One of the first interviews when Taylor began his broadway run in Grease ... ram><param name=

Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

1:20 PM - Jan 12, 2010 #8

Roots of 'Grease' grew in Rust Belt
By Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Jan. 10--Years ago, when their show "Grease" was breaking Broadway records, Warren Casey admitted something to Jim Jacobs: "I never liked that title."

Casey, whom Jacobs calls the funniest man he ever knew, sighed dramatically: "I suppose it's too late now."

By the time Casey confessed his doubts, "Grease" was the word: a long-running Broadway hit on its way to being a gigantic movie hit, a show in what seems like perpetual revival.

The latest version, an outgrowth of the TV casting show "Grease: You're the One That I Want," opens Tuesday at the Fox. It stars "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel and is directed and choreographed by Tony-winner Kathleen Marshall (sister of director-choreographer Rob Marshall of the movies "Chicago" and "Nine").

With its affectionate spoof of teen life in the 1950s and the rock 'n' roll music that fueled it, "Grease" ultimately found a huge new audience among very young theatergoers who could not recall (and, increasingly, whose parents could not recall) poodle skirts, ducktails and the subversive allure of AM radio. "Grease" has managed to achieve something that seems impossible: nostalgia without memory.

Anyway, Jacobs, who thought up the name for the show, always liked it and still does. It's a very dense name, he points out, simultaneously referring to cars (like the treasured Greased Lightnin'), the burgers and fries the kids eat and the boys' grooming aids.

Best of all, it spoofed another recent hit about youth culture, a show that took its stand on one side of the big American culture gap right in its title: "Hair." The name "Grease" shot back an answer from the other side.

The show was based on Jacobs' teen years at Chicago's Taft High School, class of 1960.

"When I walked into Taft for the first time, a 13-year-old freshman, I was terrified," said the writer-composer. He lives near San Diego with his girlfriend and their 8-year-old son. He also has a grown daughter.

"There were boys with sideburns, and I didn't even have peach fuzz!" Jacobs said.

"And those girls! In elementary school, I never saw girls who looked like Anita Ekberg! And tough! The real Rizzo, the girl Rizzo was based on, was about 100 times tougher than anybody in 'Grease.' She and her friends really were called the Pink Ladies. They're in their late 60s now, and they still have their jackets.

"So I was scared to death -- and I couldn't wait."

In time, Jacobs joined a rock 'n' roll band and hung out with a group known as the Burger Palace Boys, precursors of the show's T-Birds. All the characters are based on Taft High School students, in some cases including their real names.

Jacobs became part of Chicago's energetic theater scene, where he met Casey when they both appeared in a 1963 community-theater production of "A Shot in the Dark." They hit it off right away and started writing together. Casey, who died in 1988, was "a latter-day Oscar Wilde," Jacobs recalled fondly. "He had that acerbic style -- and I had Taft."

Together, they decided to write a musical that would "spoof the rock 'n' roll movies of the era. You know, the one where there's a brooding tough guy, Elvis or James Dean or whoever. Then somebody hears him sing and says, 'I can make you a star,' and they change his name to Johnny Melody or something. And he meets a good girl who turns him into a pussycat. Into a future U.S. senator!

"But that's not what we wanted. We wanted the guy to stay cool and the girl to join the motorcycle gang. It's like rooting for the Indians in a Western. You never get to win."

That was the beginning of "Grease," which debuted in 1971. A community-theater production at the Kingston Mines Theater in Chicago's Lincoln Park, it "had a budget of $175, and the most expensive thing was Greased Lightnin',"‰" Jacobs said. "It was a real car, and it cost $71. Nobody got paid."

The little show got a lot of attention, including visits from New York bigwigs. A couple of producers (who, Jacobs says irritably, have in later years taken too much credit for their artistic contributions) moved it to New York, then Broadway, where it opened in 1972.

When it closed in 1980, it was the longest-running show in Broadway history. The movie was made in 1978.

Jacobs likes the movie, especially the performances by the stars, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. On the other hand, he wishes that it hadn't relocated Rydell to California.

"My fear was that they would turn 'Grease' into 'Beach Blanket Bingo,'" Jacobs said. "These are Rust Belt kids. They live in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis. Alan Carr (who adapted the stage show for the movie) grew up in Chicago himself, and he said it wouldn't happen. Yeah, right. There's John, dancing with Olivia by the ocean. It irks me."

Jacobs is more than irked by "Grease 2," a movie he has never seen in its entirety.

"It's junk," he said. "I can't watch for more than 10 or 15 minutes."

He likes "Hairspray," especially the first incarnation, with Ricki Lake, but dismisses "High School Musical" as "a ripoff," plain and simple.

"HSM" never had the rough edges that "Grease" started with, and Jacobs is a little wistful about the way those have been softened over the years to make it more appealing to family audiences.

But he admits that he's played a role in that himself. Urged on by a publisher, Jacobs wrote a short, cleaned-up version of "Grease" for children's troupes.

"The 8-to-11 market for 'Grease' is huge," he said.

Jacobs doesn't reject that audience, by any means. But he'd love to see a revival that returns the show to its raw, R-rated roots, pounding with hormones and nervy rock 'n' roll. (In fact, New Line Theatre staged a production along those lines here about three years ago. Jacobs says another may be in the works in Chicago.)

It wasn't supposed to be refined, Jacobs said, and even if that has made him a very rich man, he still has a soft spot for the Kingston Mills show, which won't be at the Fox, but which was "the real McCoy," he said.

"That's the way we were."

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Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

8:28 PM - Feb 13, 2010 #9


Joined: 2:52 AM - Feb 08, 2008

5:24 PM - Feb 25, 2010 #10

When the Musical Grease became the Movie Grease , the noted film critic , Vincent Canby did a review. You will note that the role of THE TEEN ANGEL was not even mentioned. This is noteworthy because Frankie Avalon was a big name , even in the 70's. That Mr. Avalon was not mentioned when Mr. Canby does make reference to the "B" movie Beach Party in which Mr. Avalon starred is most intriguing yet strange. Not until the Musical Revival of Grease did this "cameo" role earn newsprint.

Movie Review
Grease (1978)
June 16, 1978
A Slick Version of 'Grease':Fantasy of the 50'sBy VINCENT CANBY
Published: June 16, 1978

"GREASE," the film version of the still-running Broadway musical show, is not really the 1950's teen-age movie musical it thinks it is, but a contemporary fantasy about a 1950's teen-age musical—a larger, funnier, wittier and more imaginative-than-Hollywood movie with a life that is all its own. It uses the Eisenhower era — the characters, costumes, gestures and particularly, the music—to create a time and place that have less to do with any real 50's than with a kind of show business that is both timeless and old-fashioned, both sentimental and wise. The movie, which opens today at Loews State 2 and other theaters, is also terrific fun.

Because I seem to be one of the few persons who has never seen the Broadway show, I'm not sure how the movie differs from the original, yet it's apparent that the film's score, which is one of the best things about the production, has been liberally supplemented by new material and new-old material, including "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," which has never before sounded so marvelously, soaringly inane.

Somewhat in the manner of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which recalls the science-fiction films of the 50's in a manner more elegant and more benign, than anything that was ever made then, "Grease" is a multimillion-dollar evocation of the B-picture quickies that Sam Katzman used to turn out in the 50's ("Don't Knock the Rock," 1957) and that American International carried to the sea in the 1960's ("Beach Party," 1963).

The gang at old Rydell High, which is the universe of "Grease," is unlike any high school class you've ever seen except in the movies. For one thing, they're all rather long in the tooth to be playing kids who'd hang around malt shops. For another, they are loaded with the kind of talent and exuberance you don't often find very far from a musical stage. They not only portray characters but effectively make comments on them.

Olivia Newton-John, the recording star in her American film debut, is simultaneously very funny and utterly charming as the film's ingénue, a demure, virginal Sandra Dee-type. She possesses true screen presence as well as a sweet, sure singing voice, while the Sandra Dee I remember had a voice that seemed to have been manufactured in Universal's speech-and-special-effects department.

John Travolta, as Miss Newton-John's costar, a not-so-malevolent gang-leader, is better than he was in "Saturday Night Fever." I'm still not sure if he's a great actor, but he's a fine performer with the kind of energy and humor that are brought to life by the musical numbers.

Stockard Channing, as the high school's tramp who has a dirty mouth and a heart of gold, would (if it were possible) stop the show twice, once with a pasty put-on of poor Olivia ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee") and another when she attempts, in song, to explain why it's more honorable to be loose than uptight ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do").

The film's producers, Robert Stigwood and Allen Carr, and director, Rundel Kleiser (whose first theatrical feature this is), have also supplemented the cast of comparative youngsters with a whole crowd of actors we associate with the 50's, and who seem here to have survived with barely a visible dent.

Eve Arden, a fixture of the 50's as Our Miss Brooks, plays Rydell High's unflappable principal; Sid Caesar is the football coach; Edd Byrnes comes on briefly as the lecherous host of a teen-age TV show that decides to spotlight Rydell in a network program; Jean Blondell is the harassed waitress at the corner soda fountain, and, maybe funniest of all, is Frankie Avalon, who appears in a dream sequence to counsel an unhappy student ("Beauty School Dropout").

Bronte Woodward has adapted the Broadway book by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who also wrote the show's original score, in such a way that the plot serves the purpose of the music without needlessly interfering with it.

It's to the director's credit that the musical numbers slip in and out of reality mostly with hugely comic effect. The highlights of the stage show include the upbeat rock number, "We Go Together," and the rueful "Summer Nights," both sung by Mr. Travolta and Miss Newton-John, but the hit of the film is probably a breathless new number, "You're the One That, I Want," written by John Farrar and beautifully choreographed by Patricia Birch.

Because there haven't been that many movie musicals recently, it doesn't mean much to say that "Grease" is the best we've had in years. I'm also afraid that people who (like me) have no special fondness for the 50's might be put off by the film's time and place. Let me emphasize, then, that "Grease" stands outside the traditions it mimics. Its sensibility is not tied to the past but to a free-wheeling, well informed, high-spirited present.

"Grease," which has been ruled PG ("Parental Guidance Suggested") has some language that would never have been heard even on Broadway in the 50's, and though it deals with teen-age lust quite frankly, it's heart is always pure.

Fantasy of the 50's

GREASE, directed by Randal Kleiser; screenplay Bronte Woodward, adapted by Allan Carr from the Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey; produced by Robert Stigwood and Mr. Carr; dances and musical sequences staged and choreographed by Patricia Birch; music supervision Bill Oakes; director of photography, Bill Butler; editor, John F. Burnett; distributed by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 110 minutes. At Loews State 2, Broadway at 45th Street, and other theaters. This film has been rated PG.
Danny . . . . . John Travolta
Sandy . . . . . Olivia Newton-John
Rizzo . . . . . Stockard Channing
Kenickie . . . . . Jeff Conway
Frenchy . . . . . Didi Conn
Principal McGee . . . . . Eve Arden
Teen Angel . . . . . Frankie Avalon
Vi . . . . . Joan Blondell
Vince Fontaine . . . . . Edd Byrnes
Coach Calhoua . . . . . Sid Caesar
Mrs. Murdock . . . . . Alice Ghostley
Blanche . . . . . Dody Goodman
Johnny Casino and the Gamblers . . . . . Sha-Na-Na
Jan . . . . . Jamie Donnelly
Marty . . . . . Dinah Manoff
Doody . . . . . Barry Pearl
Sonny . . . . . Michael Tucci
Putzie . . . . . Kelly Ward
Patty Simcox . . . . . Susan Buckner
Eugene . . . . . Eddie Deszen
Tom Chisum . . . . . Lorenzo Lamas
Leo . . . . . Dennis C. Stewart
Cha Cha . . . . . Annette Charles
Mr. Rudie . . . . . Dick Patterson
Nurse Wilkins . . . . . Fannie Flagg
Mr. Lynch . . . . . Darrell Zwerling
Waitress . . . . . Ellen Travolta ... 946990D6CF