Grease is the word.
And the word this weekend was…old.
I had no idea that Grease was entering its 40 year anniversary this year until I saw a Fathom Events advertisement for it. I remember seeing Grease in the theater as a child so I immediately felt very old.
I have always loved the music from Grease. Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, the theme song Grease, Beauty School Dropout, covers by Sha Na Na. There are so many great tunes that I knew I wanted to see it in a theater again, despite the chance that it made me feel really old.
After seeing it today, I did not feel old. I enjoyed the film’s energy and music.
In 1958, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) spent much of the summer together on a beach with a lot of platonic fun. Not expecting to see each other again, they head back to their individual lives. However, Sandy’s family winds up moving her to the same school that Danny attends. Danny is the leader of a gang called the T-Birds and they are your typical 50s leather coat wearing punks who have a smart remark for anything. When Sandy meets back up with Danny, he is extremely happy, but needs to save face with his gang mates by playing his feeling off. Will Danny and Sandy find each other?
Well, watching Grease now a days, I was amazed how little of an actual story there was to it. I mean, they had individual arches for the characters, but there is barely a throughline for the plot. It truly feels like a series of scenes strung together by these characters knowing one another. And the school year goes from first day to graduation without any semblance of time passing.
The key to Grease is the soundtrack and the remarkable dance routines. From the boy-girl switch of Summer Nights to the huge blow up of You’re the One (That I Want), the ensemble cast dance in amazing ways. This is a hoot to watch.
I love the song Sandy, sung by John Travolta after being dumped at the drive in. The image of Travolta singing this on a swing set in front of a giant movie screen is iconic.
As a child, I also loved Sha Na Na, the cover band that sang a bunch of songs from the 50s and 60s. Sha Na Na had a variety show on television for several years which I loved. Sha Na Na was actually the first concert I went to as a youth. Seeing Sha Na Na in Grease was great as I am picking out members from behind the cast. In fact, Sha Na Na keyboard player Screamin’ Scott Simon wrote the song Sandy for Grease.
There are a ton of fun cameos in Grease as well. Sid Caesar plays Rydell High’s Coach (who must coach every sport at the school, which go on at the same time). Scene stealer Principal McGee is played by Oscar nominated actress Eve Arden. Oscar nominee Joan Blondell was a waitress. Frankie Avalon appears in a dream sequence to sing to Frenchie (Didi Conn). Edd Byrnes (Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb) is here as the movie’s “Dick Clark” – Vince Fontaine.
Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway were wonderful together as the misbehaving Kenickie and Rizzo.
Sure some of the messages of Grease are antiquated these days, especially the Olivia Newton John must change into something she is not to get her “man.” But to be fair, Danny Zucko was going to do the same for her as he somehow lettered in track.
Sure this is not a great movie, but there is enough here to have a lot of fun and the music is simply tremendous.
Grease is certainly the word.