GREASE THE MUSICAL
July 14, 2009 - 8:30 pm
Tue 14 till Sat 18 July 2009
Since its creation in 1972, “Grease The Musical” has performed non stop in London, Broadway and Las Vegas.
Recently voted N°1 musical of all times, Grease The Musical with the original London superproduction is the ultimate family show with the feel-good mood of the fifties and a brilliant collection of timeless songs.
Grease had its Broadway première in 1972, and has triumphed consistently throughout the world. In 1979 Grease took over the record as the longest-running show in the history of Broadway, and the hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John proved to be the highest-grossing movie musical ever.
The co-creators, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, were friends for seven years before they collaborated on Grease; it was over a beer at a party that the idea first surfaced. Reacting against the “traditional, ‘legit’ show-tune type melodies of the Great White Way”, Jacobs and Casey amused themselves imagining this new kind of musical on Broadway, with music from the late 50s and characters from the golden days of rock ‘n’ roll.
Perhaps through fate (Casey lost his job soon after and, having time on his hands, began to write a rough sketch), Casey and Jacobs created a story with music and lyrics which challenged the existing concept of musicals whilst establishing itself as a new kind of ‘classic’. It was in an experimental theatre in Chicago on February 5th 1971 that they finally tried their idea out on the public, with a title evoking the style of the late 1950s – slicked- back hair and fatty fast-food: Grease.
Despite a slightly shaky beginning, an all-amateur cast in a former tram shed with newspapers for seats, the audiences kept returning with friends and relatives, until Grease proved more profitable than any previous show the theatre had produced. With discouragement from friends and encouragement from Broadway producer Ken Waissman and partner Maxine Fox, Casey and Jacobs recognised that to maximise the show’s potential they would have to give up their day jobs and move to New York.
One year after the first production Grease opened at the Eden Theatre, just off Broadway, but not with the success hoped for. Although the public loved it, the critics – in particular the New York Times – gave the show lukewarm reviews and the Tony Awards committee ruled that Grease was ineligible for nomination because the Eden did not qualify as a Broadway theatre, being several blocks away from Broadway proper. However, the producers disagreed and threatened to sue the committee, which promptly backed down. Grease consequently received seven Tony nominations, moved to Broadway proper and never looked back.
Although in the smash hit film of 1978 John Travolta was to play Danny Zuko, in the 1972 tour across the US and Canada the 17-year old Travolta played Doody, the nerdy kid who idolises Danny. When the show opened in London it was the then-unknown Richard Gere who played the cool Danny, with Stacey Gregg as Sandy, followed by Paul Nicholas and Elaine Paige in the lead roles.
Everywhere it opened Grease struck a universal chord with its irresistible mix of adolescent angst, vibrant physicality and 1950s pop culture. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey created a perfect period piece – a pastiche of the 1950s: “fast, furious and thrilling, an injection of raw energy… and fun, fun, fun”, according to The Daily Mirror.
The new production of Grease, which incorporated all the hit songs from the movie, opened at the Dominion Theatre in 1993 starring Craig Maclachlan as Danny Zuko. Having been discovered in Neighbours, the producers realized that Craig exuded the charm that was essential for the character of Danny. They had already seen eight hundred girls for the part of Sandy, but when introduced to American actress Debbie Gibson she was offered the part immediately. The show was taken on tour in 1997, starring Shane Richie and then Ian Kelsey as Danny Zuko; due to its success it ran again with Luke Goss heading the cast.
Celebrating twenty years of ‘Grease’ mania, the film (produced by Robert Stigwood and Alan Carr) was re-released in the summer of 1998.
The London production ended in 1999 after six successful years, whilst the tour continued in 2000 with Steven Houghton as Danny. Since then the show has continuously toured throughout the UK, with 2 hugely successful returns to the West End. In October 2001, with Craig Urbani as Danny, Grease returned home to the Dominion Theatre, and in September 2002 a limited season started at the Victoria Palace Theatre with Greg Kahout as Danny and Lee Latchford-Evans as Teen Angel. The show was such a success that its run was extended 3 times and played to packed houses until September 2003 (with Ben Richards taking over the part of Danny Zuko from January 2003).
2003 saw Paramount Home Entertainment release a 25th Anniversary DVD of Grease. It went on to sell more than 750,000 copies – the highest DVD sales ever!
In October 2003 Grease made its first Japanese tour, playing to packed houses in Tokyo and Osaka. The show then returned to the UK for a sold out 5 week Christmas season at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, with Jonathan Wilkes as Danny and Hayley Evetts as Sandy. In Christmas 2003 Grease was voted “The No.1 Greatest Musical” by ‘100 Greatest Musicals’ on Channel 4 TV. In January 2004 Grease embarked on another UK tour with Ben Richards as Danny and Suzanne Carley as Sandy.
A second Broadway revival, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, opened in the U.S. in August 2007.Max Crumm and Laura Osnes were selected to portray Danny and Sandy via viewer votes cast during the run of the NBC reality series Grease: You’re the One that I Want!. A U.S. National tour began in December 2008, and is scheduled to continue through June 2009. Taylor Hicks reprises his role as the Teen Angel, with Eric Schneider as Danny and Emily Padgett as Sandy. In the U.S. Tour, before the show begins, the DJ of WAXX, Vince Fontaine, plays music from the 50s for the audience to sing.
A West End revival, with the leads similarly cast via ITV’s Grease Is The Word, opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London in August 2007. The Asian tour opened in Macau in October 2008, and has booked dates for Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Pusan, Taegu, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Dubai, various cities in India, and of course Lebanon!
Grease continues to smash attendance records wherever it goes. Talking of the show’s appeal and purpose, director David Gilmore explains, “Grease doesn’t have a message … it gives a flavor of being a teenager in the 50s when rock ‘n’ roll and putting grease on your hair were the most important things in life; and this is the level that we should take it on.”
The show also remains hugely popular in the U.S., where scarcely a week goes by when some high school or other isn’t staging a revival. Jim Jacobs: “It never occurred to us when we were picking out those tunes on our guitars that Grease was going to be the ideal show for schools to put on. It’s hard to see it ever going out of fashion, because the early days of rock ‘n’ roll seem to appeal to everyone, regardless of age.”
Grease has maintained its everlasting popularity, proving that teenage angst and love’s young dream remain timeless and universal themes.
Be there or be square!!!
DAVID GILMORE , DIRECTOR
David Gilmore was born in London and educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, in South-East London. He spent several years working in all aspects of stage management before becoming an actor. For ten years he played leading roles in major regional companies. On becoming a director he ran the idyllically beautiful Watermill Theatre in Berkshire for three years, and was then appointed Artistic Director of the Nuffield Theatre on the University campus at Southampton. During his five-year tenure the company established a national reputation for the production of new plays, neglected classics and European drama.
During this period he directed The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, Candida by Shaw, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Brecht, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams, and productions by authors such as Rattigan, Coward, Frayn, Wedekind and Christopher Hampton, in addition to half a dozen musicals. He also adapted Fernando de Rojas’s Celestina for the stage.
During the last few years much of David‘s work has been overseas. Last year his production of Happy Days opened the Olympic Superdome in Sydney in front of an audience of 20,000. At the same time his European productions of Grease were playing in Munich and Paris.
His production of La Haut, a French comedy operetta, which he originally directed for the Théâtre des Celestins in Lyon, completed a season at the Théâtre de Variétés in Paris and has subsequently been filmed for French television.
His arena production of Grease played arenas all over Australia and New Zealand. Other productions abroad include As You Like It for the Shakespeare Repertory Company in Chicago; David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide; the American comedy Alone Together, and Ben Elton’s Gasping, which visited Hong Kong and Peking. His production of Defending the Caveman, starring Australian actor Mark Little, won an Olivier Award last year for Best Entertainment.
He has now directed more than a dozen West End productions. These include the award-winning Daisy Pulls it Off which ran for three years at the Globe Theatre; Lend Me a Tenor also at the Globe, and the award-winning musical The Hired Man by Melvyn Bragg and Howard Goodall, all produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Gilmore’s production of Grease ran for seven years at the Dominion and Cambridge Theatres, as well as touring nationally.
Other West End productions include the long-running popular hit Beyond Reasonable Doubt at the Queen’s Theatre, starring Frank Finlay and Wendy Craig; Chapter Two by Neil Simon at the Gielgud Theatre, starring Tom Conti and Sharon Bless; Radio Times starring Tony Slattery and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui starring Gryff Rhys Jones, both at the Queens Theatre; the American courtroom drama Nuts at the Whitehall Theatre, Annie Get Your Gun starring Suzi Quatro at the Aldwych Theatre, the Cole Porter revue A Swell Party at the Vaudeville Theatre, Out of the Blue at the Shaftesbury Theatre and Fatal Attraction starring Susannah York and Denis Cri at the Haymarket Theatre.
Gilmore also directed the farewell tour of the band Harvey and the Wallbangers. At the Royal National Theatre he directed Sir Anthony Quayle in Pinero’s Dandy Dick. For the New Shakespeare Company he directed A Winter’s Tale, and for the Chichester Festival Theatre Noël Coward’s Cavalcade, with a cast of over 200.
DAVID GILMORE AND IRENE PHILIPS – CHOREOGRAPHER- INTERVIEW
Director David Gilmore and choreographer Arlene Phillips talk about Grease.
Q: What makes Grease such a special show?
David: Its verve and vitality and energy and such toe-tapping tunes.
Arlene: This show has the hottest dancers in town and the best singer-actors with voices that everyone will wish they owned.
David: The casting is inspired.
Arlene: It’s been fun teaching the company to dance – they weren’t all dancers but they’ve been really eager to learn.
David: The set and costumes have been designed by Terry Parsons and Andreane Neofitou, who are two of the most talented people in the business, and they’ve achieved wonders.
Q: How do you create a 50s feel for a 21st century show?
Arlene: We’ve done a lot of research into the 50s.
David: What we are giving the public is what they think that they remember, because the past was not actually how people remember it now. If we put the real past on stage now it would be greyer and duller and smaller. What we have done is to show the past in a distorting mirror – it’s bigger, better, livelier and funnier than the reality.
Q: How have you been influenced by the film version of Grease?
David: I saw the film once.
Arlene: The film is a part of my life. I’ve watched it many, many times with my daughter, Alana. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: Have you had any help from Jim Jacobs?
David: Jim has come over and made changes to the script to enhance what was already there -we’ve done that together.
Arlene: There were some changes to the script made for a 21st century audience.
David: The film redefined the original stage show for all time. You have to take that into account.
Arlene: One is aware that Grease is now part of a cult and the audience is expecting what they know. We’re hoping that this production will inspire them to keep the cult going. I’ve loved working on this production. It’s great to do a show with lots of dancing in it.
David: Grease doesn’t have a message. It gives you a flavor of being a teenager in the 50s – when rock ‘n’ roll and putting grease on your hair were the most important things in life. If people come along to the show and take it on that level then we’ll give them a party. In fact, if you come out of the theatre feeling that you’ve been to the best party in town, then we’ll know that we’re getting it right.