...is the word.Grease
is a musical
play and film made in The Seventies
about The Fifties
Danny Zucco is back in Rydell High School for senior year. He's a bad boy who wears a leather jacket and hangs out with others who do the same. He tells his friends, the T-Birds (or the Burger Palace Boys, if you're going by the play), about the great summer vacation he had at the beach with this girl Sandy.
Sandy has just transferred to Rydell High and is trying to make friends, which happen to include the Pink Ladies. She is The Ingenue
, and she is also a senior. She tells her side of the story at the same time. Then the other girls realize the fella she was with was Danny Zucco,
and they take her to meet him. At that moment, he is more interested in maintaining his image than acting like the sensitive guy Sandy remembered, and she leaves broken-hearted.
They love each other. Can they get past their differences and get together before the end of senior year?
Arguably the 1978 film version is more famous than the Broadway musical (or the earlier, off-Broadway version produced in 1971). In the film, Sandy was renamed from Sandy Dumbrowski to Sandy Olsen, and her origin was changed from somewhere else in America to Australia to account for the star cast for the role: Olivia Newton-John. The film also featured John Travolta
(in the role that solidified his fame after the 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever
) as Danny, along with Jeff Conaway (who, ironically, had played virtually every important male character except
Kenickie in the stage musical) and Stockard Channing.
The soundtrack for the film - one of the biggest selling of all time - would turn out to be almost as successful as the movie itself, dominating the Billboard (and UK) charts for much of 1978 (along with Saturday Night Fever
), launching a string of Transatlantic hit singles and selling eight million copies in America alone, and twenty-eight million worldwide.There is a sequel
, which has practically no characters in common with the original ('cept for Frenchy who was held back a year), but the plot is almost entirely the same except that now the nice foreign kid is male, with a bad-girl love interest
. It's only really worth watching for the So Bad, It's Good
factor and the "Reproduction" song (and for starring a young Michelle Pfeiffer).
- Accidental Hug: Danny and Kenickie participate in one before the big race, complete with slicking back the hair to regain their cool.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: In the character bios for the musical, Cha-Cha is described as being a plain, slovenly type of girl, and was originally played by plus-size actresses who were otherwise made up to look less attractive. In the film and some stagings of the musical (such as the '94 revival by Tommy Tune), she's made out to be more conventionally beautiful.
- Adaptation Distillation: The musical contains several songs and subplots cut for the movie. "Freddy My Love" (sung by Marty), "Mooning" (sung by Putzie/Roger and Jan), and an instrumental of "Alone at a Drive-In Movie" (sung by Danny) were included on the soundtrack. "Shaking at the High School Hop" (a full-cast number) was not on the soundtrack nor in the movie. The remaining songs of the original were put into the background and incorporated in other ways:
- "Alma Mater" was originally the show opener sung by Miss Lynch, Patty, Eugene, and the 1959 class of Rydell High, but is heard in the background of the movie when Miss Lynch is doing the school year's first morning announcements.
- "Alma Mater (Parody)" was originally sung by all of the greasers after "Alma Mater", but is briefly sung in the movie by just the greaser boys before their car pulls up at Frenchy's slumber party. Also, in the original, the slumber party was at Marty's house.
- "Those Magic Changes" was originally sung by Doody as he played his guitar, but is sung in the movie by Johnny Casino before "Born to Hand Jive". The subplot involving Doody's guitar-playing abilities was also cut out of the movie.
- "Rydell Fight Song" was originally sung by just Patty and Sandy, but the Rydell Marching Band plays it instrumentally in the background of the movie during the bonfire scene. Both the play and the movie have a brief instrumental rendition play when the rules of the Hand Jive dance contest are given, however.
- "It's Raining on Prom Night" was originally sung by Sandy and a Radio Singer, but movie!Sandy inserts the song to play in a jukebox when Danny tries apologizing to her at the Frosty Palace.
- "Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen" was originally sung by Putzie/Roger and Doody-on-guitar, but the movie has it play in the background when the greasers enter the dance.
- Adaptation Expansion: The film does add some good songs to the repertoire.
- "You're The One That I Want" and the re-orchestration of "We Go Together" make up for the musical's somewhat lackluster ending (which originally just used a short reprise of the latter after "All Choked Up"). Both have been added to recent stagings.
- The film also adds a good solo song for Sandy in "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Before this, her big solo number was "It's Raining On Prom Night," which is only heard on a jukebox in the film. The 1994 revival had Sandy performing an adaptation of the pop hit "Since I Don't Have You", while the '71 off-Broadway version in Chicago had her singing a raunchy song called "Kiss It" to Danny (after her makeover).
- Danny's attempts to get into sports are more elaborated on in the film, and Sandy tries to date a boy named Tom to make him jealous. The Frosty Palace and the car race are other plot elements exclusive to this version.
- The 2011 ''Original Grease'' production combined drafts of the Kingston Mines version with those from the Broadway revisions, expanding the total amount of songs from about 19 to 29 (While "Rydell Fight Song" and "Shakin' At The High School Hop" were included in the Broadway staging, they are unlisted due to being left off of the cast album).
- Adaptation Name Change: A few of them, from Broadway to film:
- Sandy Dumbrowski had her surname changed to "Olsen"
- Roger (nicknamed "Rump") became "Putzie"
- Eugene Florzyck had his surname changed to "Felsnic"
- Miss Lynch became "Principal McGee"
- The Burger Palace Boys had their gang name changed to "The T-Birds" (which was also used in one of the Broadway revivals). Their rivals, "The Flaming Dukes", became "The Scorpions" and received an on-screen role.
- The greasers' hangout restaurant is renamed from the "Burger Palace" to the "Frosty Palace", although burgers are still served there, nonetheless.
- In an example from the '71 Kingston Mines staging to Broadway: Danny's second in command was originally named "Miller" and there was a younger, nerdy greaser named "Kenickie". The Broadway version cut the original "Kenickie" and gave his name to the other guy, and it stuck with all later adaptations (including the brief revival of the Chicago version, where the sixth greaser was called "Miller").
- In a remake of the Kingston Mines version (produced for its 40th anniversary in 2011), Coach Grabowski was renamed to "Coach Sakowitz".
- Adapted Out: The early version of the musical had six greasers, but the sixth was cut when the show went to Broadway. A principal named "Dr. Devlin" was also lost in the Broadway alterations, along with some minor characters like a police officer, and a bum. A coach (Grabowski) was also in the script, but his scene was cut for time in the Kingston Mines production. It was reinstated in the revival.
- A 40th anniversary re-staging of the original Kingston Mines version originally included adult versions of Marty, Jan, Roger, Kenickie, and Frenchy in the Time Skip framing sequence. These roles were cut in later stagings, to shorten the length of the show. Dr. Devlin was excluded from the remake, as the time skip changed from taking place in 1970 to taking place in 2010 (the director felt Devlin would either be long dead by now or at least much too elderly to be hosting a 40th high school reunion).
- Adorkable: Doody. Whether he is awkwardly attempting to ask Frenchy out in the play or the only T-Bird in the movie who hesitates at the thought of racing at Thunder Road, he still manages to have a fun presence nevertheless. Justified in that he is the youngest of the Greasers, although this detail is ONLY made explicit in his script bio.
- Adults Are Useless
- Affectionate Parody: Of late-fifties/early-sixties teen movie musicals.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Danny and Kenickie are pretty popular. Averted with Sandy; Danny's image annoys her.
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Subverted. When Danny is confronted with Sandy in her cheerleader costume in front of his friends, he's embarrassed.
- Played with in the original Chicago musical. Danny dates Patty Simcox, but it's only in an attempt to get Sandy jealous at him. He later blows Patty off for Sandy, after the latter receives her makeover.
- All Love Is Unrequited: For a while.
- Alpha Bitch: Rizzo, with the Pink Ladies as her Girl Posse, except for Frenchy, who still befriends Sandy. Also a subversion, since Rizzo's not the typical cheerleader but a sexy and straightforward "bad girl".
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted; in spite of how they talk, it's made clear that Kenickie and Putzie are virgins, though both appear to lose it during the movie.
- Animated Credits Opening
- Ascended Extra: Cha-Cha DiGregorio is simply a dancer invited to the school hop in the musical, and has no previous connection to Danny. Her role was expanded quite a bit in the film.
- Auto Erotica:
- About as literal as you can get. The song "Greased Lightnin'" is about fixing up a car so they can get women.
- The scene before it in the film (not in the musical) shows Kenickie and Rizzo interrupted while trying to have sex in the back of his car.
- Later, Danny makes a move on Sandy while they're at a drive-in movie theater, but she angrily leaves, calling his car a "sin wagon".
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: In the musical, Roger and Jan share a cute, playful duet shortly after insulting each other.
- Award Bait Song: "Hopelessly Devoted To You". It was nominated for an Academy Award, but didn't win.
- Bad Girl Song: Played with and subverted in "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" for Rizzo. Part of the song is about how she refuses to be a good girl and save herself for a perfect man who doesn't exist—but the other part is about how she refuses to lead guys on, lie to anyone, or genuinely hurt them, ending it by admitting that she has feelings too.
- Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Sandy is the Trope Codifier.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Rizzo and Kenickie, who double as Beta Couple.
- Big Eater: Jan, who's also Hollywood Pudgy.
- Bittersweet Ending: In the 2011 staging of The Original Grease, a middle-aged Patty Simcox reveals (in a Time Skip epilogue) that some of the characters ( Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Sonny, and Miller) have long been deceased.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Marty, Jan, and Frenchy are respectively cast this way most of the time.
- Boy Meets Girl: "Summer heat, boy and girl meet..."
- Bowdlerise: The Broadway musical was gradually cleaned up over the years to remove most of the profanity and sexually suggestive lyrics. Although the Broadway version itself was also a case of this, as Jacobs and Casey's original script included the kids using even more "f-bombs" and calling each other ethnic slurs (ie: "wop", "polack"). Any references to Chicago (or Illinois in general) were also cut or changed, as it was felt that the musical would be more successful if it didn't take place in a specific area.
- Due to Grease's popularity with younger crowds, a "kid-safe" version of the musical script exists for schools to perform. It's even more toned down than the modern versions used for Broadway, and is shortened to about an hour. Besides cutting songs down for language and timing purposes, Rizzo's pregnancy-scare is also eliminated.
- Break the Haughty: Rizzo gets this with the pregnancy story line. She holds her head high, though.
- Butt Monkey: Eugene.
- Canon Foreigner: Tom Chisum only exists in the film, as do Blanche, Couch Calhoun, Vi, Leo, and Mrs. Murdock.
- The Cast Show Off: In the movie, the two leads and Rizzo never pass up an opportunity to show their singing & dancing abilities. The play, however, is an ensemble piece, giving virtually every speaking role a chance to sing.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Putzie/Roger, who is ever-so charming to his beloved Jan despite his allurement to mooning. Lampshaded by his nickname ("Putz"/"Rump"). While the other T-Birds show an expression of shock or surprise at Sandy's wardrobe change, he is the only one who grins!
- Crowd Song
- Cut Song: As listed above, a good number of the Broadway songs did not make it into the film, or were changed into background tunes. However, the Broadway production itself cut or altered musical numbers for timing purposes. Most of the below examples were reinstated for the 2011 ''Original Grease'' production in Chicago:
- "Foster Beach" was changed to "Summer Nights", as Broadway producers felt audiences would not be familiar with the beach (a Chicago-specific locale on Lake Michigan).
- Patty and Miss Lynch originally had solo numbers, but both were cut.
- Before the movie would have its own titular song, there was an Act II number called "Grease" that was dropped (it would also be reprised as the final musical number). Another song called "Boogie Man Boogie" was cut and replaced with "Born To Hand Jive".
- Besides "It's Raining On Prom Night", Sandy had a solo number called "Kiss It" (in the Original Grease, this comes before "All Choked Up", the song created to replace it in the Broadway script).
- Doody's song was originally in Act II and titled "Rock Progression", but it was moved to Act I and rewritten to be "Those Magic Changes". "Rock N' Roll Party Queen" was created for the second act instead.
- The Burger Palace Boys were to have two songs entitled "The Tattoo Song" and "Comin' At Ya", but these were cut before the Kingston Mines premiere.
- "How Big I'm Gonna Be" was a song cut before rehearsals of the Kingston Mines production began. It explored a greaser's idea of success in life, and became Danny's solo in the American Theater Company's 2011 stage remake of the original Grease. The song is used as a response to Sandy's challenge that Danny do something with his life.
- Deadpan Snarker: Rizzo.
- The Ditz: Frenchy. And perhaps Patty Simcox.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" in the stage version, where Rizzo sings it to Sandy before storming off.
- Doo Wop Progression: Well, of course, the score is one great big homage to 1950s rock-and-roll, so, of course, this progression turns up in songs like "Mooning," "We Go Together," "Beauty School Dropout," and "It's Raining On Prom Night." And to top it all off, "Those Magic Changes" introduces it with a great big fat lampshade attached - the song's Broadway lyrics sing the doo wop chords that play through most 1950s songs:
G-G-G-G seventh... "etc."
- Double Entendre: A surprisingly clever one in "bite the weenie, Riz!" "with relish!"
- Also when Marty is flirting with Vince Fontaine during the prom, he asks for her name and she responds, "Maraschino... Y'know, like in cherry?"
- Down L.A. Drain: It's the site of the car race in the film version.
- Drive-In Theater
- Embarrassing First Name: As Miss Lynch likes to point out in the play, Sonny's real name is Dominic. As she points out for Johnny Casino, his is Clarence.
- Embarrassing Nickname: For Putzie/Roger, "Putz"/"Rump". Partially averted in that he does not seem to particularly mind.
- Ethical Slut: Rizzo. She explains her views in the song "There Are Worse Things I Could Do":
I could flirt with all the guys,
Smile at them and bat my eyes.
Press against them when we dance,
Make them think they stand a chance,
Then refuse to see it through.
That's a thing I'd never do.
- Extracurricular Enthusiast: Patty Simcox, overly-enthusiastic goody-two-shoes cheerleader, nominated for student council, helps set up for the prom, and gossips her way through the whole movie/play.
- The Fifties
- Final Love Duet:
- "You're The One That I Want" in the movie.
- "All Choked Up" in the Broadway musical, although it is sometimes replaced with the above song in later stagings.
- Five-Man Band:
- The T-Birds/Burger Palace Boys:
- The Pink Ladies:
- The original four Pink ladies also fit the Four Girl Ensemble. Frenchy is the sweet naive one, Marty is the sexy flirt, Rizzo is the admirable wild card (down to a t, actually), and Jan, the silly tomboyish girl.
- Foreshadowing: "If it ran any better, it'd be flying."
- Gainax Ending
- Gay Moment
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the song "Greased Lightnin'", John Travolta's character rubs saran wrap against his crotch. This is supposedly a reference to the use of saran wrap as a condom. The lyrics of the song contain lines like "You know that ain't no shit/We'll be getting lots of tit"; "With new pistons plugs and shocks/I can get off my rocks/You know that I ain't braggin'/She's a real pussy wagon"; and of course "the chicks'll cream!"
Danny: Oh, bite the weenie, Riz.
Rizzo: With relish. [flashes eyebrows]
- Greaser Delinquents: Danny and the T-Birds. It's even alluded to in the title.
- Groin Attack: Well, maybe not an intentional attack, but Sandy does slam a car door into Danny's hard-on after his abortive attempt at seduction.
- Happily Ever After
- Hidden Depths: Danny turns out to be pretty darn good at track.
- The Ingenue: Sandy.
- Intercourse with You: You're The One That I Want
- "I Want" Song: In the play (more so than the movie), literally every song serves the purpose of giving the audience insight into a character's (or group of character's) personality. Very few of the songs actually move the plot along in any way.
- Kick the Dog: In the stage version, Sandy punches the sweet cheerleader in the eye for no reason other than to show how "tough" she is.
- Never mind that said "sweet" cheerleader just called her a floozie and had been badmouthing her behind her back to Danny at the dance...
- Kiss-Kiss-Slap: Rizzo and Kenickie.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: "She was good, you know what I mean..."
- Last Name Basis: Betty Rizzo is usually called "Rizzo" or "Riz". When she's making out with Kenickie in his car, she asks him to call her by her first name, but has to tell him what it is. Can also be considered a case of Only Known by Their Nickname.
- Lighter and Softer: The Kingston Mines version is said by the creators to have been grittier, more profane, and less colorful. The Broadway run increasingly softened dialogue and made the costumes more mainstream '50s attire (such as giving Sandy a poodle skirt), while the movie played things even campier. One example that Jim Jacobs cited was that the Pink Ladies' jackets went from being black to literally being pink, due to the movie's influence.
- The later London productions (which started in 1993) are also much more toned down, the costumes were made more colorful, and the directors re-arranged the order and orchestration of some songs to fall in line with the film (such as "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" being performed at the sleepover instead of towards the end of Act I). Frenchy is even given pink hair◊ throughout the entire play, as an homage to her dye job accident in the film.
- MAD: An image of a 50s era Mad Magazine cover is included in the opening animation. When the film came out it was parodied as "Cease", the cover featuring the car logo and Alfred E Neuman collecting grease from John Travolta's hair as he combs it.
- Magical Realism: The dream sequence in "Grease Lightnin`", The dream sequence in "Beauty School Drop Out", The flying car at the end.
- Mooning: Putzie/Roger's favorite pastime. Made explicit in the play in a duet where he serenades Jan with a song about mooning. Alluded to in the film as he is the only T-Bird who SHAKES his rear on national television (this is acknowledged by an amused waitress who watches this from the television at the greasers' hangout restaurant).
- Morning Routine: The movie starts with cartoons showing everyone getting ready for school.
- The Musical
- My Hair Came Out Green: Actually, bubble-gum pink, when Frenchy flunks tint.
- Mythology Gag: In the play, Sandy did not go to the Hand Jive dance and instead sang "It's Raining on Prom Night" whilst alone in her bedroom. In the movie, Sandy DOES go the dance, so she does not sing this song. What is the Mythology Gag? This song plays as background music on the radio several scenes prior to the dance, foreshadowing that Sandy will not be alone in her bedroom.
- New Transfer Student: Sandy. In the film, she comes from Australia. Her original home is not stated in the Broadway production, but she was meant to be from Joliet, Illinois in the original script.
- Non-Actor Vehicle: For Olivia Newton-John.
- Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: A fondly nostalgic portrayal of The Fifties, bordering on Rose Tinted Narrative. The era is depicted as some sort of teenage paradise, where the worst that can happen to you is being compared to Sandra Dee.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Averted in the film, where they made Sandy an Australian exchange student instead of forcing Olivia Newton-John to do a painful American accent.
- Odd Name Out: In the play, Roger is this to the other greaser boys, who are named Danny, Kenickie, Doody, and Sonny (in the movie, Roger's name is changed to "Putzie", perhaps to subvert this). In both the play and the movie, Jan is this to the other Pink Ladies, who are named Sandy, Betty (Rizzo), Frenchy, and Marty. It makes sense that Roger and Jan are a couple!
- Operation Jealousy:
- Sandy finds herself a convenient jock to date, after Danny rejects her.
- Kenickie and Rizzo also pull this one on each other.
- There's a reversal of Danny and Sandy's situation in the '71 musical: Danny has Patty Simcox be his "girlfriend" so he can make Sandy jealous. Unfortunately for Patty, she doesn't know she's being used.
- Original Cast Precedent: Johnny Casino and the Teen Angel tend to be played by the same actor in most stage productions, since that's how they were cast in the original Broadway show (though they were played by separate people in the Kingston Mines production).
- Marty will almost always be a blonde, Frenchy a redhead, and Rizzo and Jan will have dark hair.
- The Burger Palace Boys will all almost always have dark hair, though sometimes a lighter-haired actor will be cast as one (as with Jeff Conaway as Kenickie).
- Painted-On Pants: Sandy wears them in the final scene.
- Power Trio: Greaser boys Doody, Sonny, and Putzie/Roger invoke this. The same can be said for their counterpart greaser girls Frenchy, Marty, and Jan.
- Pregnancy Scare: Rizzo and Kenickie's pregnancy scare is a major subplot.
- Rage Against the Reflection: Less rage-y variation, movie only.
- Random Events Plot
- Refrain from Assuming: The song is called "Summer Nights", not "Summer Loving" or "Tell Me More".
- Slut Shaming: Inverted. Rizzo shames Sandy for being chaste:
Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee
Lousy with virginity
Won't go to bed 'til I'm legally wed
I can't; I'm Sandra Dee
- Played straight in a brief scene in the film, where Rizzo overhears Patty Simcox gossiping about her with other girls after word of her assumed pregnancy gets out; this scene leads into "There are worse things I could do" directed at a now-absent Patty (and, in the end of the song, Kenickie) after Sandy offers support to Rizzo.
- Smoking Is Cool: It's the fifties, what did you expect?
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Out of all the songs on the film soundtrack, the title track — you know, the one that plays during the Animated Credits Opening — doesn't even try to sound fifties-ish. It's basically Frankie Valli doing disco. Director Randal Kleiser actually wanted the song removed for this very reason, plus the fact that he felt that the lyrics sounded too cynical for what was ostensibly a happy film, but producer Robert Stigwood overruled him, as the song had been written by Barry Gibb, whose group, the Bee Gees, were signed to Stigwood's record label, RSO Records, which produced both Grease and Saturday Night Fever.
- Spiked Wheels
- Spiritual Successor:
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Danny Zucco, played by a 6-foot tall, young (not to say as young as he was supposed to be, though) and lean John Travolta.
- That Nostalgia Show: To the '50s, made in the late '70s.
- The Theme Park Version: Of the 50s.
- This Is Going To Be Huge: Principal McGee wishes the graduating seniors success in their future, such as being "the next Vice-President Nixon".
- Those Two Guys: Doody and Putzie/Roger—the two even sing a duet in the play!
- Took a Level in Badass: Sandy, at the end of the film.
- Troubled, but Cute: The T-Birds. Especially Kenickie, who's generally a jerkass but who doesn't hesitate to take responsibility and try to do what he considers the right thing when he thinks he's gotten his girlfriend Rizzo pregnant.
- Twelve Bar Blues: "Greased Lightnin'"
- Unreliable Narrator: Played with. "Summer Nights" is sung by both Danny and Sandy telling of their summer romance. While it is clear Danny is exaggerating (and even lying) to his friends you could argue that Sandy's version is a more idealized version as well, though hers is probably closer to the truth.
- World of Ham: The musical and/or the movie basically require being over-the-top.
- Yawn and Reach: Danny does this with Sandy. When he attempts to touch something more than just her shoulder it backfires.