|First posted 2/24/2008; last updated 11/23/2020.|
The Albums: This page offers an overview of the Grease Broadway show as well as the two major albums it birthed:
About the Broadway Show:
Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s show was named after the working-class youth subculture known as greasers. It “was an affectionate little musical about the teenage lifestyle of the late 1950s — when rock and roll was aborning, the cool boys sported heavily gelled hair and motorcycle jackets, and their girls favored beehive hairdos and pedal pushers.” CA Set at the fictional Rydell High School in 1959, the story follows a group of adolescents navigating issues such as peer pressure, friendship, love, sex, teen pregnancy, and rebellion. “Grease skillfully walks the line between parody and homage.” CA
Jacobs explained that the basic plot in which the female lead transforms from a sensitive character into a more rebellious one was a “subversion of common tropes of 1950s cinema” W-C in which the tough male lead would become a more sympathetic character.
The show was first performed in Chicago in the Kingston Mines nightclub in 1971. On February 14, 1972, it opened Off-Broadway at the Eden Theatre in New York. On June 7, 1972, it moved to Broadway, first at the Broadhurst Theatre and then the Royale Theatre, where it ran until January 27, 1980. W-C Its 3,388-performance run there was the longest in history, until it was surpassed in 1983 by A Chorus Line. W-C
Opened on Broadway: June 7, 1972
Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.3 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: show tunes
All songs written by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs.
Total Running Time: 46:38
3.663 out of 5.00
About the Cast Album:
A cast recording was made in 1972 which featured the original Broadway cast. “Barry Bostwick is terrific as lead greaser Danny, and Carole Demas sounds just right as Danny’s sweet girlfriend, Sandy. Among the other standouts in the cast are Katie Hanley, Walter Bobbie, and Kathi Moss.” CA
“The melodies, rhythms, harmonies, and arrangements of the songs are clever knockoffs of popular ’50s hits, very catchy and buoyed by some clever lyrics. (Example, from Freddy, My Love: ‘I treasure every giftie / The ring was really nifty / You said it cost you fifty / So you’re thrifty / I don’t mind.’).” CA
“Other highlights include Summer Nights, which amusingly presents a boy’s and a girl’s different descriptions of their summer romance; the infectious Those Magic Changes, sung by a kid who’s thrown himself wholeheartedly into guitar lessons; It’s Raining on Prom Night, an oddly touching, funny lament over a lost high-school love (sample lyric: ‘I don’t even have my corsage, oh gee / It fell down a sewer with my sister’s I.D.’),” CA and “We Go Together, ”a bouncy anthem of teenage unity.” CA
“The score does contain one serious number, and it’s a good one: There Are Worse Things I Could Do, sung by Rizzo, whose outward toughness masks her vulnerability. Adrienne Barbeau gives the song a moving, well sung performance.” CA
“This is a show for people who lived through the ‘50s and would now like to remember it only for its high school fashions, teenage emotional concerns, and bouncy rock & roll tunes.” WR
Released: April 14, 1978
Peak: 112 US, 113 UK, 17 CN, 114 AU
Sales (in millions): 14.0 US, 2.37 UK, 40.4 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: show tunes
Song Title (Writers) (PERFORMERS) (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Songs are written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey unless noted otherwise.
Total Running Time: 61:14
4.300 out of 5.00
About the Soundtrack:
“Grease will always be the word for hopelessly devoted generations of girls who wore out their record players partying with their own Pink Ladies to this soundtrack.” ZS The “high-camp classic” ZS whisked listeners away “to the ‘50s teeny-bopper days” ZS by boasting “summer-loving hits that will be on karaoke playlists until the end of time.” ZS
“The movie is a 1970s take on 1950s musicals, providing all the kitsch anyone could hope for.” AZ “Grease was a huge success as a Broadway musical prior to hitting the big screen in 1978. That was the version that transformed Grease into a phenomenon – it was a runaway box office success, and then became a TV, cable, and video favorite.” STE The soundtrack, the sixth best-selling of all time, W-S “rivaled its film counterpart as a pop culture perennial, and it’s not hard to see why – its good-natured pastiche of doo wop and early rock & roll is infectious and charming, due in no small part to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s charismatic, engaging performances.” STE
They actually only appear on 7 of the 24 tracks on the album, but “they sing the majority of the originals… which were the reason why the film and soundtrack became blockbusters.” STE The pair duet on You’re the One That I Want and sing with the cast on Summer Nights. Both sangs hit #1 in the UK and rank in the 20 best-selling singles of all-time in the UK. W-S
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta took solo turns on Hopelessly Devoted to You and Sandy respectively. They were also hugely successful in the UK, both hitting #2. The former was a #3 hit in the US as well.
Songs by other cast members include Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, in which “actress Stockard Channing struts her, um, versatility.” AZ The rest of the soundtrack is filled out by “workmanlike performances” STE of 1950s’ chestnuts from Sha Na Na. While they are “over-represented,” AZ the soundtrack’s original songs, which “hold up better than the ‘50s tunes,” STE “are so giddily enjoyable…that everything works.” STE
Most of the songs from the original show are retained, but the hits which propelled the soundtrack into the stratosphere were largely new editions. That includes a pair of John Farrar contributions, including “You’re the One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” The soundtrack also includes some rock and roll chestnuts such as Hound Dog, Blue Moon, and Tears on My Pillow performed by Sha Na Na.
The title song was sung by ‘50s heartthrob Frankie Valli and penned by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, fresh from his success from Saturday Night Fever. In that movie, Travolta became an internationally-known star strutting his disco white-suit-wearing stuff while dancing to four chart-topping songs penned by Gibb. In Grease, Travolta strutted his jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing stuff while dancing with Olivia Newton-John – and four more top-five US hits.
This soundtrack bears several interesting connections to that one. Only three weeks after Fever ended its six-month residency at the top of the US charts, the Grease soundtrack moved in for a summer-long stay. Fever was the best-selling album of 1977; Grease held the title for 1978. Both rank in the all-time top 100 worldwide best-selling albums with estimates as high as 40 million. Both soundtracks are also in the DMDB’s list of the top 50 soundtracks and rank amongst the biggest #1 albums in U.S. and U.K. chart history. Both albums are also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/NARM’s Definitive Albums list.
“The sleek pop production the movie’s soundtrack boasts and the cast’s enthusiastic performances go a long way in making this Grease the definitive Grease.” STE “This has become a touchstone in American culture.” AZ
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