Monday, April 14, 2008

Turn In Your Teasing Comb and Go Back to High School

When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I saw the stage musical Grease - not the same version that had Rosie O'Donnell in it once upon a time, but the one for which a reality TV show served as a casting vehicle. I do not watch reality TV, so I have nothing else to say about that.

One thing I noticed about it is that "Grease" is now more or less the overture, sung as the show's opening number. In the fantastic 1978 movie (with the Pink Ladies [above] and Jeff [Conaway]), Frankie Valli sang that song over the opening credits, in an unncessary bid to give the film relevance to the youth of the day. The song was written by Barry Gibb, whose work sounds more like 1978 than any other person's in existence. In the stage version, the song still sounds like 1978, only now it's coming out of the mouths of greasers.

This version also adds the other songs written for the movie, including "Hopelessly Devoted to You," which is sort of Fifties-sounding and is quite a good song to boot, and "You're the One That I Want," which except for the backing vocals doesn't sound very Fifties at all, but it's also pretty good, and makes a fine penultimate number before "We Go Together." One thing you may notice is that all three of those songs - "Grease," "Hopelessly Devoted to You," and "You're the One That I Want" - were huge hits when featured in the movie; "Hopelessly Devoted" went to Number Three, and the other two went to Number One. "Summer Nights" was the biggest hit from the original score by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, going to Number Five.

So even without grease being the word, you've got lots of hits to choose from. The lack of musical integrity in the new stage version makes it strictly for outer-borough patrons only. Stick to Didi Conn.

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