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Grease

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The Writing of Grease

Commentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

Dr. Frankenstein built his monster with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, the creation went out of control and became a force that terrorized society, a thing it was never intended to be.

The same sort of thing could be said to have happened to the musical, Grease. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey set out to write a gently nostalgic musical, to be done for a small Greenwich Village audience, filled with funny send-ups of the types of songs they heard in their teens back in the 1950s. They succeeded at their goal, just like Frankenstein succeeded at bringing life to his monster, and then things went terribly awry.

The little off-Broadway charmer was moved to Broadway, where it became the Street's longest-running hit. There was a phenomenally popular film and, spreading like wildfire, it's become the most-performed musical in high schools across the country.

This, of course, brought the authors much wealth; they never wrote anything again. However, as the popularity has spread, audiences seem to have lost sight of what the show was supposed to be in the first place.

The target audience, way back in 1972, wasn't teenagers. It was adult baby boomers, people who'd experienced their teens in that early age of rock and roll. The songs are all parodies of specific types of songs that could be heard on the radio in 1959. One song, "Those Magic Changes," refers to how simple the harmonies were: "changes" is a musicians' term for chords. The rock & roll effect of crooning on an "oo" sound is sent up in "Mooning," a song with a lyric about a somewhat lewd act. This lightly-plotted tale has a cynical "moral": you've got to dress like a slut to get a guy. On paper, at least, this is all quite humorous.

Grease captured the zeitgeist, coming at a time when audiences were just beginning to feel nostalgia for the 1950s. The hit movie, American Graffiti, and the hit television show, Happy Days, came along at about the same time and covered the same subject. Over the years, discouragingly, Grease ceased to be a fond spoof played for those who remember. It's become a musical that's often performed by actual teens for audiences that do not remember the 1950s. They often take things at face value, so they don't get that the ending is a cynical lampoon of what makes a happy ending, or that the songs mock actual songs of the era. The movie further confused the intention by replacing many of the songs with new songs written in the then-current disco style "not by Jacobs and Casey. And it they were upset about that, they're crying all the way to the bank.

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DVD

Grease (Widescreen Edition) (DVD) from Amazon.com 1978 Film starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and Stockard Channing. Special features include: retrospective interviews with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, director Randall Kleiser, and producer Allan Carr.

Grease 2 DVDGrease 2 (DVD) from Amazon.com 1982 Sequil to the orignal film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield. Set two years after Grease a new set of Greasers and Pink Lady's have taken over Rydell High.

Cast Recordings

Grease Original CastGrease: A New 50's Rock 'N Roll Musical - The Original Broadway Cast Album from Amazon.com Songs include: Alma Mater/Alma Mater, Summer Nights, Those Magic Changes, Freddy, My Love, Greased Lightnin', Mooning, Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee, We Go Together, It's Raining On Prom Night, Born To Hand-Jive, Beauty School Dropout, Alone At A Drive-In Movie, Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee, All Choked Up, and We Go Together (Reprise)

Grease SoundtrackGrease (Original 1978 Motion Picture Soundtrack) from Amazon.com Songs include: Grease - Frankie Valli, Summer Nights - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John, Hopelessly Devoted To You - Olivia Newton-John, You're The One That I Want - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John, Sandy - John Travolta, Beauty School Dropout - Frankie Avalon, Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee - Stockard Channing, Greased Lightning - John Travolta, It's Raining On Prom Night - Cindy Bullens, Alone At The Drive-In Movie (Instrumental) - Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey, Blue Moon - Sha-Na-Na, Rock 'N' Roll Is Here To Stay - Sha-Na-Na, Those Magic Changes - Sha-Na-Na, Hound Dog - Sha-Na-Na, Born To Hand Jive - Sha-Na-Na, Tears On My Pillow - Sha-Na-Na, Mooning - Louis St. Louis, Freddy My Love - Cindy Bullens, Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen - Louis St. Louis, and There Are Worse Things I Could Do - Stockard Channing

Grease Revival CastGrease - The New Broadway Cast Recording (1994 Revival) from Amazon.com Featuring Rosie O'Donnell, Marcia Lewis, and Sam Harris. Songs include: Alma Mater, We Go Together, Summer Nights, Those Magic Changes, Freddy, My Love, Greased Lightnin', Greased Lightnin' (Reprise), Rydell Fight Song, Mooning, Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee, Since I Don't Have You, We Go Together (Reprise), Shakin' At The High School Hop, It's Raining On Prom Night, Born To Hand Jive, Beauty School Dropout, Alone At A Drive-In Movie, Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee, and Finale

Sheet Music

Grease Vocal ScoreGrease: A New 50's Rock and Roll Musical (Vocal Score) from Amazon.com by Jim Jacobs and Warren Cassey

Grease - Vocal Selections (Amazon) Songs include: Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen, Freddy, My Love, Alone At The Drive-In Movie, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Greased Lightnin', Mooning, Born To Hand Jive, We Go Together, Beauty School Dropout, It's Raining On Prom Night, All Choked Up, Summer Nights, Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee, Those Magic Changes, and Alma Mater

"There Are Worse Things I Could Do" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Summer Nights" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Beauty School Dropout" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Greased Lightnin'" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Freddy, My Love" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

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