Book, Music & Lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey

INFO:

Opened at the Eden Theatre February 14, 1972 3,388 performances (Many revivals)
Original Director: Tom Moore
Original Choreographer: Patricia Birch
Original Producer: Kenneth Waissman & Maxine Fox, Anthony D’ Matao
Original Leads: Danny: Barry Bostwick Sandy: Carole Demas Rizzo: Adrienne Barbeau
Cast Size: Male: 8 Female: 8 Ensemble: 0 Total Cast Size: 16 (You can add as large an ensemble as you like, but none is required.)
Orchestra: 5.
Published Script: Samuel French
Production Rights: Samuel French
Recordings: The original Broadway is fine.  The movie spawned a huge hit album.
Film: Famous and beloved by some, starring John Travolta.
Other shows by the authors: None
Awards: Nominated for 7 Tony Awards, won 0.

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A small-sized show (relative to most musicals) that could be done by almost anyone. High Schools, colleges and universities, Dinner Theaters, stock companies, Little Theaters, and professional companies regionally and on Broadway. Really, just about anyone could pull it off.

Be Warned:

There’s a lot of choreography. If you don’t sort of excel in dance as a group, this may be a rough show.

There’s drinking, smoking, making out, and it’s all done by teens.   If your group or audience has a low tolerance for that sort of thing, do another show.  Also, if you feel as I do, you may find the message of this show objectionable.  Just a thought.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: As Rydell High’s “Alma Mater” is sung, an old maid teacher (Miss Lynch), a former cheerleader (Patty), and the former class valedictorian (Eugene) take the stage. A sign let’s us know we are at a reunion for Rydell High, class of ’59. Eugene addresses the unseen crowd, and welcomes them., But he states that there is a missing group that are remembered.

A school bell rings. “Chuck Berry” guitar is heard. The Greasers are seen defiant and lazy, responding to the spirit of the night (“Alma Mater parody”) as they take the stage. Two “Pink Ladies” (a girl gang) enter, Jan and Marty. Jan is a little overweight, and carries a large tray of food. Marty’s tray is far less burdened. They let us know that summer is over and school has begun again. Rizzo, their leader, asks where the guys are. They’re cheap, and they’re brown-bagging it.

Lights rise on the “Burger Palace Boys”. They work at swapping unwanted lunch items. Kenickie, a togh guy, lets them know he worked all summer and saved his money. He’s going to buy a car and name it “Greased Lightnin’.” Doody and Roger make fun of him, and don’t believe it. Sonny enters in wrap-around sunglasses. Sonny complains he has Ms. Lynch for English again, and that this year, he’s not putting up with any crap from her. But when she walks though and orders Sonny to class, he hops with a “yes, ma’am.”

In the cafeteria, the girls discuss a new girl, hanging out with Frenchie. Her name is Sandy, and Rizzo doesn’t want more competition. Frenchy introduces Sandy as her new next-door neighbor. Jan eats, the girls talk. Sandy tells them she was going to go to a Catholic school, but her father got into a fight with the Mother Superior over Sandy’s patent leather shows…the Mother claimed boys could look up her dress in the shoe’s reflection. Patty joins them, a kid again and a cheerleader. Patty meets Sandy, and asks if she’ll be at the cheerleader tryouts, but Sandy claims to be too shy for that.

The guys see Danny. He hung at the beach all summer, he says. He met a girl he liked there. They assume he “went all the way” with her, and he asks if that’s all they think about. Meanwhile, Sandy tells the girls she spent the summer at the beach, and met a boy. Danny and Sandy explain their hot “Summer Nights” to their respective gangs. Rizzo thinks the guy, who didn’t touch Sandy, must be “a pansy.” (Script dialogue, you should know the language is often direct and slang-y.) One of the girls mentions Danny Zuko, and that is, of course, Sandy’s guy. Both Danny and Sandy lied to each other about which school they go to, and did not realize they’d both end up at Rydell. The gangs meet, and the Pink Ladies shove Sandy toward Danny. Danny plays it cool, made uptight by the surprise that his summer romance has an Act II. She is surprised and hurt that he seems not to care she’s there. Rizzo lets her know that Danny is a creep, all the boys are.

A school bell rings, and the hallway fills up. Doody has a guitar, and just started taking lessons. He tells Danny how much he loves “Those Magic Changes” he’s learned to play. Miss Lynch sends Sonny to detention.

A pajama party in Marty’s bedroom. The Pink Ladies are in pastel baby doll PJs. They listen to Vince Fontaine, a rock DJ on the radio. The girls talk, share gossip, a few of them smoke. Sandy is there, in a quilted robe buttoned all the way up to her neck. They con her into trying smoking, she chokes. And Rizzo has snuck in some wine. Another girl brought twinkies. They indulge, except Sandy, who doesn’t drink. Frenchy, who is into make-up and fashion, offers to pierce Sandy’s ears for earrings, but Sandy says her father would probably kill her. Rizzo goads Sandy into it. Using a virgin pin, Frenchy starts the painful procedure, and Sandy yelps. She bleeds and feels faint. Rizzo tells Sandy that if she’s going to hang with the Ladies, she’s got to toughen up. Sandy throes up when she sees blood. Marty puts on her robe, she got it from a Marine she likes. And she shows them the ring he gave her. Marty’s engaged to “Freddy, My Love”. The girls fall asleep, and as Sandy watches, Rizzo sneaks out the window.

(You’ll notice by now that not much actually happens in terms of plot. This piece is about the characters.)

The guys come running, out of breath, carrying beer and four hubcaps. Danny has a tire iron. They’ve stolen the stuff from a car. The car approaches, and they think of running – when they see it’s driven by Kenickie. (Car on stage, yup.) It’s the car he dreamed of, “Greased Lightnin’”, and they give him his stuff back. Rizzo shows up, and Kenickie has been expecting her. She puts down the car, but gets in. Rizzo lets Danny know his “girl freind” Sandy is at Marty’s house. A cop siren sounds. Kenickie wants to get out of there, since he stole the hubcaps from someone else.

Sandy practices a Rydell cheer, dressed in her gym suit. (“Rydell Fight Song”) Danny says hi, asks what happened to her ear. He explains he had to be cool the first day at school or the guys would have thought they were boyfriend girlfriend. But if it was up to him, Danny would never look at another girl. He invites her to a party for Frenchy, who’s quitting school to go to beauty School. Sandy doesn’t think the Pink Ladies like her, but Danny lets he know no one will give her trouble while she’s with him. They’re getting along famously when Patty enters, enthusiastically greeting Danny. She lets him know that after he left her house (Patty’s) the other day, her mother said she thought Danny was cute. It appears Patty and Danny just had a date. Now Sandy wants to practice her cheer-leading, so she can meet other cute boys as her revenge. They fight, green with jealousy. Danny tells Sandy he can beat any of the lettermen at any sport, and Patty points out track team has tryouts tomorrow. In a panic, he does agree to show up.

A deserted part of a park. Jan and Roger at a picnic table, Rizzo and Kenickie making out nearby on a bench. Other girls and Sonny read fan magazines, A radio puts out the Vince Fontaine radio show. Frenchy is excited to start Beauty School, next week. The talk is generally crude and in attack mode. Marty is wearing a college letterman jacket, modeling it for Danny. He thinks she’ll look just fine as a college girl. Danny lets them all know he tried out for the track team. Marty is surprised – Danny has “bird legs.” Danny says that’s better than having a “rump” like Roger. Jan doesn’t understand why Roger doesn’t get angry when they say stuff like that. He says they call him “rump” because he’s the “mooning champ of Rydell High.,” and he extols that high art form’s virtues. (“Mooning”)

Sandy enters with Eugene. They are both dressed square, and carry bags with leaves. Danny stares Eugene down, and the boy flees. Danny asks why Sandy is hanging around. She’s collecting leaves for Biology. Sonny offers to “help” her, and drags her away. Rizzo asks if Danny’s going to follow them, but he makes like he doesn’t care, and Kenickie tells Rizzo not all girls are like her, which starts a row. Danny breaks it up. Rizzo asks if Danny’s going to the dance tomorrow, and he’s not. She asks if he’s broken up over “Sandra Dee.” She says to Danny he should take her to the dance, she can do the Sandra Dee crap, too. (“Look At Me, I’m Snadra Dee”) Sandy overhears. She starts to fight with Rizzo, the boys separate them. Sandy tells Danny to tell them the truth about her and correct the “lies” he told, trying to make her look like another tramp. She runs off in tears. Danny decides that he will go with Rizzo to the dance. The others pair up, as well. (“We Go Together”)

ACT TWO: The Greasers prepare for the dance, making themselves up, doing their hair. (“Shakin’ At The High School Hop”) The number moves into the gym, while we see Sandy in her bedroom alone, listening to and singing with the radio. (“It’s Raining On Prom Night”) At the dance, Miss Lynch oversees the punchbowl. Marty is alone, Sonny drinks from a half pint bin a corner. A student and wanna-be rocker, Johnny Casino, introduces Vince Fontaine, who let’s everyone know the big hand-jive competition is in ten minutes. Rizzo asks if Danny is going to be her partner for the contest, and he is cool about it. Jan and Roger dance badly, awkwardly. Doody and Frenchy, the same. Patty rushes to Danny, and he nonchalantly tells her he made the track team. She begs Danny to cut in so she won’t have to dance anymore with Eugene. Danny tells Eugene Riozzo likes him. Kenickie enters with Cha-Cha DeGregorio. They’re late – his car wouldn’t start.

Vince tries to come on to Marty. Danny dances with Patty, and she’s loving it, sure he never danced with Sandy like this, Sandy being such a loser. He dumps Patty just like that.Cha-Cha, pretty much rejected, demands that Eugene dance with her. She teaches him how. But he doesn’t want her phone number afterwords, and rushes away. Eugene reclaims Patty (she’s unhappy about it), Danny returns to Rizzo and says he’s ready to dance with her, now. But she’s dancing with Linickie, who gioves Danny his date – Cha-Cha. The contest, “Born To Hand-Jive”. Everyone is eliminated during the dance except Danny and Cha-Cha. They win prizes. Everyone leaves, until Cha-Cha is alone.

Evening, a few days later, in front of the Burger Palace. Frenchy paces, considering the “help wanted” sign at the Burger Palace. Sonny, Kinickie, Doody all enter with weapons, in leather jackets. They ask Frenchie why she’s there, she ditched Beauty School, because the teachers “don’t know nothin’.” The gang has a rumble with another gang, the Flaming Dukes, because Cha-Cha is the Duke’s leader’s girl. Danny enters in a track suit. They remind him there’s a rumble. He can’t attend, he’d miss practice. Sonny says Danny must have the hots for a cheerleader, and that they will get creamed without him at the rumble. Danny says he’ll try to get back in time for the rumble. They all go in for a burger, except Doody, who asks Frenchy is he can meet her at her beauty school one day for a coke. Alone, she realizes that she can’t tell them the truth…as the Teen Angel sings to her, she’s a “Beauty School Dropout”, and needs to go back to High School. The guys exit the Burger Palace. It’s late, the other gang is five minutes late and that’s an excuse to split.

The Twi-Light Drive In Theatre. Danny and Sandy are seated in the front of Greased Lightnin’. Staring straight ahead in awkward silence. They watch a terrible horror flick as Danny tries to get an arm around her. She mopves away. He doesn’t get it. He begged the use of the car, apologized to her over the phone…what’s it going to take? He offers her his High School ring. Now they’re going steady, he tries to make out with her. She angrily retreats from the car, gives him his ring back. He’s sad, and “Alone At A Drive-In Movie”.

A party in Jan’s basement. The gangs drink beer, Kenickie and Rizzo dance. Sandy is alone, trying to fit in. Danny isn’t there. (“Rock ‘N Roll Party Queen”) Sandy wants to go home, but it’s her record player they’re using. Rizzo thinks Sandy’s leaving because Danny didn’t show. Frenchy talks Sandy into helping prepare food, and they leave. Marty wants to know why Rizzi is being such a b***h, and asks if it’s that time of month. Rizzo admits she’s late, and it’s likely she’s pregnant. She says it’s not Kenickie’s. Marty whispers to Kenickie, and he angrioly announced Rizzo is pregnant. She tells him angrily it’s not his, and he departs, hurt. Suddenly everyone is overly-solicitous to Rizzo. Sandy confronts her, and gets that is is Kenickie’s child. Rizzo let’s Sandy know she doesn’t need sympathy, and “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” than see guys or get pregnant. Sandy, alone, she decides she can no longer be like Sandra Dee.

The inside of the Burger Palace. The boys, except Danny, are seated at the counter. Patty enters, depressed. Danny has quit track team rather than get the required haircut. Enter Danny, and the guys accept him back instantly. Patty insists she has something important to talk to Danny about. The other guys start to leave when the Pink Ladies quietly enter, motioning for the guys to be cool. Sandy enters, yes, now dressed as a Greaser dream girl, chewing gum and smoking. Danny is thrilled, Patty offended he’d be interested in “that floozy.” Sandy punches Patty in the eye. The Pink Ladies are thrilled. Danny is “All Choked Up” with joy. Rizzo lets Kenickie know her period is coming on. They all head off to party, and even Patty’s invited.

THE SONGS:

(NOTE – There were some new songs composed for the film version that became popular, and are often inserted into the stage show now. The outline for the story provided above does not contain those songs, as I covered the original Broadway script. I’ll list them at he end of the songs, below, in italics.)

“Alma Mater”, “Alma Mater parody”, “Summer Night”, “Those Magic Changes”, “Freddy, My Love”, “Greased Lightnin’”, “Rydell Fight Song”, “Mooning”, “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “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 Worst Things I Could Do”, “All Choked Up”, “Since I Don’t Have You”, “Grease”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, “You’re The One That I Want”, “Sandy”. “Grease” was written by Barry Gibb “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want” are written by John Farrar, and “Sandy” is by Louis St. Louis and Scott Simon.

Hits include much of the score, including “Summer Night”, “Those Magic Changes”, “Freddy, My Love”, “Greased Lightnin’”, “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “It’s Raining On Prom Night”, “Beauty School Dropout”, “Since I Don’t Have You”, “Grease”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, “You’re The One That I Want”. A highly successful score.

MY OPINIONS:

The following section contains opinions, mine, and you should feel free to ignore them. Of course, if you do, well, what happens next is shoo-bop, sha wadda wadda yippity boom-de-boom. And you don’t want that.

I really dislike this show, mostly for its script. Yes, it’s very high energy. Yes, some of the songs are memorable. I give it one star for the vitality and cleverness of the score. But the show itself is not my cup of tea at all, and most of what turns me away is in the book.

I’m a big “message” guy. I think shows should communicate something, and that they do. When Sam Goldwyn, the famed film producer, said “if you want to send a message, call Western Union,” he simply proved his ignorance.  Every work of art communicates a message, whether it’s creators intended it to or not. I usually evaluate a piece by three criteria; its entertainment value, the expertise with which it was put together (including the expertise displayed by its parts), and its message.

Grease is entertaining for most audiences, on that there can be no argument. The songs are catchy, fun and clever recreations of a period of music. The show zips along, filled with movement and some laughs. (Not enough laughs, by the way. I find the script is stingy when it comes to real laugh lines.) It is entertaining enough – if you enjoy camp. Camp is when a work lampoons or “sends up” an established piece or period, exaggerating its qualities usually to get laughs. I really hate camp about 95% of the time, especially when it’s heartless. I am not entertained by that sort of thing. So for me, Grease is not very entertaining.

But some of the songs are great. The songs are put together with real expertise. They are well-constructed musically to fit the period, and diverse enough within the style to not be too repetitive. (The newer songs added later in the film and other versions are not actually 50′s songs, to my ear, not at all, and so feel less clever or artfully integrated into this show. They’re okay as songs, just not in the period.)

The books is structurally very poor. There is almost no story told at the end of the day. It’s almost entirely episodic, with the slim through line of Danny and Sandy’s on-again off-again romance intended to be the glue that holds it all together. Scenes haven’t much to do with forwarding any real plot, story-lines simply dead end, like a rumble that doesn’t happen, which I guess is supposed to be amusing? A suspected pregnancy grieved over and then turned into a joke when Rizzo’s period does start up at the end. Not good dramaturgy.

And we arrive at the message. Now, I already am pushed off this show by the fact that it’s camp. But the message is for me, the final straw. I see it pretty clearly as “Happiness comes from conforming.” And in this case, Sandy conforms by essentially joining the ranks of sluts, she joins the ranks of the lowest common human denominator. The message is “conform, be something less than you, and you’ll be happy.” I think this is a terrible message, disgusting and off-putting. For me, it renders the show rather despicable, frankly.

Look, in terms of providing lots of young actors fun roles and good songs, this is a great pick. It’s here on the site and recommended for those reasons. It’s fun, easy to do (relatively), small budget compared to most shows, and even boasts a very small orchestration. But me personally, I would never do this show. I have too many problems with its nature and its message. And that would make me the wrong Director (or audience) for this show.

And that does not in any way mean that you should not do it.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

It’s all quasi-50′s stuff, not too hard to play, and easy to teach and learn. Get a Musical Director comfortable with this form of pop and rock music. Your company should harmonize well. Men will need head voices and some falsetto. Everyone should belt, at least a bit.

Danny – Tenor, pleasant voice, some emotional expression.

Sandy – Soprano with good range, sweet voice.

Rizzo – Alto with large range, solid belt.

Kenickie – Tenor with good mid-range.

Frenchy – Alto with some high notes, character-driven voice.

Johnny Casino/Teen Angel – Tenor, classic rock voice, must sing very well and put out the Fabian-like charm.

Doody – Tenor, strong upper register. Must play guitar.

Marty – Alto, clear voice, decent belt.

Roger – Tenor, good falsetto required.

Jan – Alto, decent belt, some high notes.

Sonny – Baritone, and given the lack of baritones in the show, should be strong, good belt.

Miss Lynch – Non-Singing.

Patty – Alto, good belt.

Eugene – Tenor.

Cha-Cha – Alto.

Vince Fontaine – Non-Singing.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

This is a dance show, high-energy and kinetic. It is an entertainment almost without any other value, and the dance is a significant aspect of the entertainment it offers. Your Choreographer MUST be truly expert in 50′s rock movement, and all its variations.

Numbers a Choreographer is likely to stage include “Alma Mater parody”, “Summer Night”, “Those Magic Changes”, “Greased Lightnin’”, “Rydell Fight Song”,“Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “Shakin’ At The High School Hop”, “Born To Hand-Jive”, “Rock ‘N Roll Party Queen”, “All Choked Up”. If you add these numbers, the Choreographer might stage “Grease”, “You’re The One That I Want”.

Get some levels of energy going, so not everything is in the audience’s face.  Numbers like “Summer Nights” can be more private.

“Those Magic Changes” is a sweet, simple hymn to rock music and a boy’s ability to create it, and should be kept simple.  And he has to play guitar while singing, so don’t make him dance much.

“Look At Me…” is a rather vicious number, a low-blow attack on a girl’s purity.  It’s memorable, but probably the most mean-spirited song in the show.  Rizzo goes after everything middle American and white bread.  She seemingly has no respect for any of it, but she is herself not particularly worthy of respect, hardly an “opinion leader.”   It is another unfortunate turn in the script that it’s Rizzo who helps Sandy convert at the end.  Keep the movement on this number controlled, isolated, a not-too-harsh lampoon, as it already walks the edge of unacceptable.

“Beauty School Drop Out” is a really fun, edgy little number.  You might back up the Teen Angel with a group of hair and make-up graduates, all the things Frenchy will never be.  And give them wings, and dress them in white.  And have “clouds” and “stars” descend from the rafters on fish wire (visible, plainly so).  The more “angelic” the number looks, the funnier the nasty things Teen Angel sings become.  And this gives you a chance to move out of straight 50′s movement all the time, into a “heavenly choir” motif.  The “angels” hair and make-up will keep it all period.

Your high-energy numbers, where you want to fill the stage and get aggressive, include “Alma Mater parody”,“Greased Lightnin’”, “Rydell Fight Song”“We Go Together”, “Shakin’ At The High School Hop”, “Born To Hand-Jive”,  “All Choked Up”. If you add these numbers,  “Grease”, “You’re The One That I Want”.  If you have extra bodies that can dance, throw them at these numbers.  The show requires a kinetic, vital approach to these pieces, and real commitment, not just camp.   In fact, in the case of petty much all the songs, the singer and dancer must “believe,” and not lampoon, or the show will get dragged down into camp irredeemably, and it will never move anyone in the audience.

Cast actors who can really dance.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Danny – The leader of the “Burger Palace Boys.” Well-built, nice-looking, with an air of cool easy-going charm. Strong and confident. Charismatic. Cast for type and acting, voice, dance, but must do all three well.

Sandy – Danny’s love. Sweet, wholesome, naïve, cute, like Sandra Dee in the “Gidget” movies. Cast for type and acting, voice, dance. Must do all three well.

Rizzo – Leader of the Pink Ladies. Tough, sarcastic, outspoken but vulnerable. Thin, Italian, with unconventional good looks. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Kenickie – Second in command of the Burger Palace Boys. Tough-looking, tattooed, surly, avoids any show of softness. Has an off-beat sense of humor. Cast for type, acting, voice, dance. Must do all well.

Frenchy – A dreamer. Good-natured and dumb. Heavily made-up, fussy about her appearance, particularly her hair. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Johnny Casino/Teen Angel – A “greaser” student who leads a rock ‘n roll band and like to think of himself as a real rock ‘n roll idol./ As Teen Angel, a good-looking, falsetto-voiced, Fabian-look alike. A singer who would have caused girls to scream and riot in ’58. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement. Must sing very well.

Doody – Youngest of the guys. Small, boyish, open, with a disarming smile and a hero-worshipping attitude toward the other guys. Plays guitar. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Marty – The “beauty” of the Pink Ladies. Pretty, looks older than the other girls, but betrays her real age when she opens her mouth. Tries to act sophisticated. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Roger – The “anything-for-a-laugh” stocky type. Full of mischief, half-baked schemes and ideas. A clown who enjoys putting other people on. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Jan – Chubby, compulsive eater. Loud and pushy with the girls, shy with boys. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Sonny – Italian-looking, shiny black hair and dark, oily skin. A braggart and wheeler-dealer who thinks he’s a real lady-killer.

Miss Lynch – An old maid English teacher. One of two adult roles, they don’t sing.

Patty – A typical cheerleader at a middle-class American High School. Attractive and athletic. Aggressive, sure of herself, given to bursts of disconcerting enthusiasm. Catty in an All-American girl way, Twirls baton. Plays about age 35 at the start.. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Eugene – The class valedictorian. Physically awkward, with weak eyes and a high-pitched voice. An apple-polisher, smug and pompous but gullible. Plays about age 35 at the start. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Cha-Cha – A blind date. Slovenly, loud-mouthed and homely. Takes pride in being “the best dancer at St. Bernadette’s” Cast for type, acting.

Vince Fontaine – A typical “teen audience” radio DJ. Slick, egotistical, fast-talking. A veteran “greaser.” A professional sleazeball. One of two adult roles, they don’t sing.

SETS:

There are numerous locations indicated in the script, but it does seem to me this would all play best on a unit set. If you don’t go unit set, the show gets quite a bit more difficulty and expensive to do, and I can’t imagine why anyone would choose that route. There’s the High School reunion, followed by the cafeteria and school steps; the pajama party in a bedroom; a street corner; the schoolyard; a park; the big dance (which needs a stage) in the gym; the front of the Burger Palace; the Drive In Movie; Jan’s party in the basement; and Inside the Burger Palace. It’s way too much for a show that is so easily and inexpensively produced in just about every other area.

I think that neon and other signage could help a lot, if it’s dropped down or brought on, to let us know where we are. The show is not meant to be literal or presentational, so why do literal sets? The Burger Joint, the Drive-In can have neon signage that lowers from the rafters. Street corners can have street signs, perhaps the corner of Presley Avenue and Fabian Street. Rydell High (I assume named after clean-cut Bobby Rydell) needs a flat, painted sign like so many schools had then. The school cafeteria could have a menu up on a board, the kind that lights up and with black plastic letters slid in and out, with a disgusting cafeteria menu. The schoolyard can be dedicated, perhaps to a well-known athlete like Knute Rockne. Name the park for a famous politician in your neighborhood, from the 50s. (or name it after Eisenhower.

Bedrooms and basements can be established with furniture wheeled or carried on and off. The Drive-In can simply be greased lightnin’ facing the audience (no glass in the windshield…), and a light flickering on the actors as if from the screen, which would be where the audience is. Inside the Burger Joint can be some stools, a counter if you want to get fancy, and even a few tables from period diners.

All of this can be placed on a unit set that implies the period. This is where you can get creative. Something that looked like a giant jukebox has been done. Or the grill work on a giant car. Or a giant guitar. And that set is the thing money would be spent on, along with a few neon signs.

Oh, and greased lightnin’, which is usually an actual car, but does not need to be so long as it communicates the right idea and can move on and off on its own steam (or on a cart of some sort). It’s a flashy junker from the period. This may be the most difficult single element to get done. Maybe you can buy a car from a junk yard and paint it up. It never has to really run, it doesn’t need an engine and will be much lighter without one. It could be on stage the whole time, a shadow in the back, covered by a scrim or flat that’s pulled away.

COSTUMES:

All period, 50s. You’ll need to do some homework if you’re not sure, but there are many, many movies from the period that this Musical lampoons. Most of the costuming can be pulled from closets and thrift stores. Leather jackets. A quick and complete makeover for Sandy at the end.

Heavenly white choir robes with wings, for “Beauty School Dropout”.  Might have to kind of build these.

Not too tough a job.

PROPS:

The weapons for the rumble might be the hardest thing to do. A record player from the period. Radios from the period. Frenchy’s beauty supplies. Beers from the period. Cigarettes from the period. Cokes from the period. Cheerleader pom poms for Patty. It’s the fact that props need to be in period that makes this job difficult. Many props may need to be built. Thrift stores will help.

LIGHTING:

This is straight Musical Comedy. Most of the time the lighting should be bright, and the stage should pop.

Isolate the opening trio on the dais for the reunion, perhaps in a spot, and then blow the lights up and out for the first big number. Saturated neon-ish colors might be fun for the gym party. Try to get the outdoor scenes lit to feel like outdoor scenes, it will help differentiate settings. You’ll need a special effect for the Drive-In movie, as described above.

MAKE-UP:

The Pink Ladies are overly made-up as a rule, and somewhat tasteless. The make-up for the guys should be invisible. Sandy’s make-up has to be changed for the last scene. And everyone has to get the hair right, the guys greasy and slicked back, the women in appropriate and over-the-top styles for that time. A fairly complex job compared to many other shows.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Choreographer, Musical Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Make-Up Designer, Danny, Sandy, Rizzo

MY THOUGHTS:

No, I’ve pretty much said what I wanted to say about this show. It’s a very successful show. It makes money, and is cheap to do. I’m sure it’s fun to do, if you don’t look at it too closely.  You either like it or you do not. Over to you.