I have a special place in my heart for Grease. It’s the first musical that I really remember being smitten with. My mother would occasionally play soundtracks from other Broadway shows, but they clearly didn’t stick with me because I can’t even remember which ones they were (Carousel, maybe?). The songs from Grease are just so ridiculously catchy and accessible that they would get stuck in my head. It’s hard to hear “Summer Nights” or “Hopelessly Devoted to You” without wanting to sing along (but I’m getting ahead of myself). The plot is admittedly kind of silly, but that also made it pretty accessible to a newbie. And even at ten years old, I questioned the ending – was the moral of the story really that for the girl to get the guy, she just had to change everything about herself? But despite the questionable message I still loved it.
Grease actually has followed me most of my life. When I was a kid, we used to stage fake productions of Grease at a friend’s house (the same house where I was first exposed to soap operas). When I was in high school, our spring play was Grease and since I had a lot of friends in the show, I went to see the show a lot. My friend who first exposed me to Grease had a major role, so apparently all our faux rehearsals growing up paid off. I always found it ironic that in our high school version of the show they were forced to change the Rizzo storyline; instead of being upset that she might be pregnant, she had to be upset that she might be moving away, which really made absolutely no sense. And since my high school had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state, I’m not sure what they were trying to shield us from exactly. When you have a day care center in your school, you know what’s what. In college, one of my pledge songs was set to “We Go Together” (our other song was set to the Muppets theme song, so obviously I had a lot of creative control), so to this day whenever I hear that song I think of our version of the lyrics rather than the actual lyrics. Grease was also a movie that was a staple to our viewing rotation; it was a fun movie to have on and watch with a group because you didn’t really need to pay attention to know what was going on. My senior year, the Grease remix song was very popular and got a lot of play at various parties. In adulthood, I always stop on Grease if I happen upon it on TV; it’s a good movie to have on in the background while you’re doing other things. I’ve actually seen the edited version of the movie more often than the original, so I’m always surprised when I see the deleted scenes that aren’t in the cable TV version of the film. All in all, I’ve probably seen Grease 30+ times, though not necessarily always in its entirety.
So it was a no-brainer that when the Grease Sing-a-Long rolled into town last week that I would be in attendance.
The Grease Sing-a-Long is exactly what it sounds like: the theatrical version of Grease, but with subtitles for all the songs, kind of like karaoke. And unlike most movie-going experiences, you are not only encouraged to sing along, it’s expected. This is pretty much a dream come true for me since if I like a song, I have a very difficult time not singing along with it. I do this constantly, despite the fact that I don’t have a very good singing voice and that half the time I don’t even realize I am doing it. I just can’t help myself. Ask anyone who has been on a long road trip with me. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, which explains why this scene from The Heartbreak Kid got such a big laugh from the person I saw it with. He could totally identify with Ben Stiller.
So the idea that I got to view Grease and not annoy anyone by singing along (poorly) was kind of a dream come true.
I was surprised by the number of people that were there; I knew the movie had a following, but the theater was fairly packed. There were even a lot of people who came in costume – lots of Pink Ladies jackets, a few black spandex Sandy outfits and one guy who was a good sport and came dressed as Danny Zuko (though he didn’t look like that was his idea). I’m a fan, but these people were taking it to a whole new level. But that also meant that people were there to have a good time, which made the whole experience a lot more fun.
To entertain us before the feature, they showed old episodes of the Monkees, which of course I enjoyed. They then showed some vintage theater concession stand commercials and the original trailer for Grease, which I’d never seen before. Then it was show time. I was a little bummed that they didn’t have subtitles for the Grease theme song, but that didn’t stop people from singing along anyway and hooting and hollering for the various actors. This was the first time I’ve seen the movie since the passing of Jeff Conaway, so his first scenes were a little bittersweet. I was curious to see what the participation would be like for the first song; while people sang along with the theme, it was kind of muted. I wondered if people were going to be a little subconscious about belting out tunes with a bunch of strangers.
But then “Summer Nights” started, and it was pretty clear that people were just going to go for it. And it was awesome. Knowing I don’t have a good voice, I sang pretty quietly, but there were some people in the audience who could really sing. And all the voices coming together produced a really nice melody. And even though you couldn’t see anyone’s face very clearly in the dark you could just tell that everyone in the theater was singing with a big smile on their face. You could hear in in their voices. When the first song ended, everyone broke into applause. It really was fantastic.
The enthusiasm carried through the rest of the film, with people laughing in all the right places. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve watched the movie while giving it my full attention rather than just having it on in the background and I have to admit that it is even more ridiculous than I remembered. I mean, Stockard Channing (who I love) has got to be the oldest teenager ever, as she was 34 years old when they filmed the movie; that’s even older than Gabrielle Carteris was when she played Andrea on Beverly Hills, 90210. Most schools do not have end of year carnivals that have ferris wheels, a fact I was sad to discover when I got older. For such good friends, it is odd that the T-birds hadn’t seen Kenickie or Danny all summer to know what they were up to – I’m thinking that whatever city/town Rydell High was supposed to be in that they probably would have run into Kenickie when he was “luggin’ boxes at Bargain City.” And even if they hadn’t seen each other all summer, how could the T-birds, or Sandy for that matter, be surprised that Danny had lettered in track? Wouldn’t the fact that he was on the track team come up in conversation? And the biggest question of all – why the hell does the car that Sandy and Danny drive off in during the final sequence start to fly? These questions haunt me. I wonder what a person watching the film for the first time, without the benefit of nostalgia would think. I may have to do a little social experiment.
All in all, it was a very fun night with good company and good sports all around. It was a nice way to kick of the week and blow off some steam. If you are a fan of Grease, I’d recommend checking out the Sing-a-Long if it comes through your town. Grab a bunch of friends, perhaps have an adult beverage or two beforehand, and get your sing on. After all, Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion, Grease is the way we are feeling.