One of the great things about theater is that it can evolve and change with each new production, whether it ends up working or not. How will Grease Live be different from the original Broadway show? The FOX production will take to the airwaves on Sunday, but it probably won't be much like what Broadway audiences saw in 1972 when Grease premiered.
First of all, there are a lot of differences between the movie Grease and the stage version that you or your friends might have starred in or seen at some point. We'll hopefully see some of those on Sunday. The character names are a little different. Rizzo, Kenickie, and Marty all have larger parts. The play doesn't go to the beach, and there's no car race at the climax. I also don't think Julianne Hough is going to be playing Sandy as Australian, for example. Movies and plays are structured differently, and there were more songs on stage.
However, the truth is, Broadway purists haven't seen the original version of Grease in a while. This show has been changed a number of times and, if you were hoping that FOX would return the show to its original gory, I'm afraid you're out of luck.
It's crazy to think about now, but "You're The One That I Want," "Hopelessly Devoted To You," and the title song "Grease" were not in the original Broadway production of Grease. They were added for the movie, and were inserted into the stage version for (hang with me, this gets confusing) the 1993 London revival production — not the 1994 Broadway revival that starred Rosie O'Donnell as Rizzo and featured Megan Mullally as Marty. Those three songs finally debuted on Broadway in the 2007 revival, which is closest to the version we'll see on FOX, as per the official soundtrack's song list.
Also according to that same list, several of the songs from the Broadway show have been cut, including "Alma Mater," "Rydell Fight Song," "Mooning," "Shakin' At The High School Hop" "It's Raining On Prom Night," and "Alone At A Drive-In Movie," which was not in the 2007 revival either.
A Bit "Nicer"
The tone of the story was watered down for the movie and subsequent productions, including the FOX live production, which will have changed lyrics and a new song. Listen to the original lyrics to "Greased Lightning" (sung by Kenickie, not Danny like in the movie) above — they do not say "the chicks will scream for greased lightning," let me say that much. That said, I'm hoping the line "did she put up a fight" from "Summer Nights" is cut, changed, or at least reacted to as problematic in this production. It's sexist and has majorly troubling implications.
However, I think you can be edgy without offending, and I think it's sad that this show has been put through the wash so many times. Greasers and Pink Ladies were never meant to be these cartoon cool kids — the show was originally an exploration into a subculture, like Hair before it or The Rocky Horror Show and Rent after. Remember how sad The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is? It's wild to think they're about the same group and time period. The script used to include a lot of swearing and sexual references — you may have heard that the plastic wrap in the movie is a reference to condoms. Here's a list that compares the old Grease dialogue to what you'd find if you bought a script today.
The not-so-magic changes actually predate the Broadway production. The really raunchy, raw version of Grease played out of town in Chicago before they opened on the Big White Way in 1972. "It went from an in-your-face show about delinquents to a colorized gang of lovable people singing rock 'n' roll," said co-creator Jim Jacobs in an interview with Playbill. "It went from black jackets to pink jackets." Jacobs helped to launch a recreation of the original production in Chicago. The show was actually initially set in Chicago and referenced a lot of Chicago landmarks. As a fan of John Hughes movies, I don't think I would have been put off by teenagers talking about the Windy City, but it's one of the many things that changed about the show.
So, while Broadway fans may rejoice that some of the elements of the stage production will finally be recorded on Grease Live, know that it's not 100 percent the same. Grease is on a journey, and we'll all have to wait and see where that flying car takes us next.
Image: Tommy Garcia/FOX