Greasy Days

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! This month, in tandem with the start of our look at Garry Marshall’s Laverne & Shirley, we’re spotlighting another entry in the wave of ’50s nostalgia that seemed to sweep American culture during the 1970s. That’s right, I’m talking… Grease, which opened on Broadway in 1972 and went on to become a smash hit motion picture in 1978. The success of this property in both mediums, along with Marshall’s sitcoms (especially Happy Days), and the 1973 film American Graffiti, all fed a growing public appetite for material that would both satisfy the urge for a pre-counterculture simplicity, while also projecting an updated knowingness of that era’s artifice and its false depiction in previous entertainments.

Grease was more interested in destroying our rose-colored glasses about the 1950s than the cheerful efforts of the aforementioned Marshall ended up at doing… at least, that was Grease’s aim when it first debuted in a local Chicago theatre in 1971 — as a crass, irreverent commentary on what the teen generation of the ’50s was actually like. (The cast featured a young Marilu Henner.) For the show to get to Broadway in 1972, it had to become less harsh, and, naturally, by the time of the 1978 movie — ensconced firmly in the disco era and subject to more aggressive censorship — it was rendered significantly tame, upholding as much artifice as it mocked. Of course, I’d also argue that the glossily naive Garry Marshall sensibility, which didn’t yet exist during the play’s development, seeped into the film, but I digress…

Right now, I just want to share some treats — with subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest — as they’ll help to get us in the nostalgic frame of mind. Let’s start with an audio of the Original Broadway Production, taken in July 1972. Now, this isn’t the entire original cast — e.g., Adrienne Barbeau had already moved to Hollywood for Maude, so her replacement, Joy Garrett, is in the role of Rizzo. But it’s a great artifact of the piece as it played New York in 1972, the same year the Happy Days pilot aired on Love, American Style. Above is an excerpt — Barry Bostwick, Carole Demas, and company with “Summer Nights.”

But wait! There’s more… I’ll also throw in an audio from a 2011 production at the American Theatre Company in Chicago, which recreated the original local version of the show, which hadn’t been seen since its initial 1971 run. Here’s your chance to hear alternate lyrics to your favorites, and long-lost numbers like the first iteration of “Summer Nights” called “Foster Beach.” Check it out above… And, last but not least, for my Xena fans, I’ll also send over, as a bonus, a few tracks of Lucy Lawless’ 1997 turn as Rizzo during that decade’s Broadway revival. As a sample, here’s the Warrior Princess herself with “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”

 

 

Come back next month for another musical rarity! And stay tuned tomorrow for more…

12 thoughts on “Greasy Days

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.