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Feature: GREASE Is Still The Word! A Brief History of GREASE from Chicago to LIVE!

What do you think of when someone says "Grease?" The movie? The most recent revival? The original Chicago production? Whichever one is first, chances are hand-jives, summer lovin,' and Sandy's iconic "bad girl" outfit are just a few of the things that come to mind. GREASE, and it's beloved Pink Ladies and T-Birds (or Burger Palace Boys, as they were originally called), have had a long journey from Chicago to Fox's upcoming production of GREASE: LIVE.

So put on your poodle skirts and leather jackets; here is our brief history of the beloved musical, GREASE.

CHICAGO - 1971

The original production of GREASE premiered at the Kingston Mines Theater in Chicago in 1971. The script was based on Jim Jacobs's experience at William Taft High School in Chicago. Jacobs, along with Warren Casey, penned the book, lyrics, and music. The school became Rydell High School, and the story of ten teenagers in the '50s, navigating the challenges of peer pressure, love, and identity, took to the stage for the first time. The original Chicago production was rough, aggressive, and purposely vulgar; full of cursing, sex, and grit.

William Taft High School in Chicago, the inspiration for GREASE's Rydell High


The Chicago production caught the eyes of producers Ken Waissman and Maxine Fox, and they decided to bring the show to New York. During the move, GREASE became less gritty and less Chicago-specific, smoothing some of the original's rougher edges. It was produced Off-Broadway at the Eden Theatre in downtown Manhattan, and opened on February 14, 1972. The Off-Broadway production, although not located in the Theatre District, opened under first class Broadway contracts, and as a result was eligible for the 1972 Tony Awards, receiving seven Tony nominations.

Original Cast Members


GREASE eventually moved uptown, and officially opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst on June 7th, 1972. The show starred Barry Bostwick as Danny and Carole Demas as Sandy. Bostwick went on to play Brad Majors in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and Demas went on to originate the lead role in THE BAKER'S WIFE. GREASE played four different theaters from February 14th, 1972 to April 13th, 1980: The Eden, the Broadhurst, the Royale, and the Majestic. Notable replacements during it's eight year run included Peter Gallagher, Ilene Graff, Patrick Swayze, and John Travolta.

Video: Barry Bostwick and Carole Demas sing "Summer Lovin' " on PBS' GREAT PERFORMANCES in 1985, reprising their roles as Sandy Drumbowski and Danny Zuko, 13 years after the show originally opened on Broadway in 1972.

MOVIE - 1978

The film adaptation was released in 1978, six years after GREASE made it's New York debut. The movie starred John Travolta, who played Doody during the show's Broadway run, and Olivia Newton-John. The casting of Olivia Newton-John, an Australian, lead to a change in the character from American Sandy Dumbrowski, to Sandy Olson, an Australian on holiday who moves to America with her family. GREASE was the biggest box office hit of 1978, and it's soundtrack was the second-best selling album in the United States that year.

Video: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing "You're The One That I Want" in GREASE (1978).


The first Broadway revival of GREASE opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on May 11th, 1994, originally produced by Tommy Tune and directed by Jeff Calhoun. This run featured prominent Hollywood and Broadway actors such as Brook Shields, Rosie O'Donnell, Hunter Foster, Megan Mullally, and Billy Porter. While this revival did not include any songs added to the movie, it did include "Since I Don't Have You," a song from the 50's, as a ballad for Sandy to sing, instead of "Hopelessly Devoted to You." The revival ran until January 25th, 1998, for a total of 1,505 performances.

Video: Original Revival Company of GREASE performing "We Go Together" in the opening number of the 1994 TONY AWARDS Broadcast.


Grease's most recent revival went through a unique process to choose it's leads. NBC produced a reality show, GREASE: YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT, to have America choose the next Danny and Sandy. The result was the Broadway debuts of Max Crumm and Laura Osnes. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, the show opened at the Brooks Atkinson on August 19th, 2007. This revival did include many of the beloved songs added to the movie, such as "Grease," "Hopelessly Devoted to You," and "You're the One That I Want."

Video: Laura Osnes winning the role of Sandy on GREASE: YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT and the GREASE 2008 TONY AWARDS performance.

2008 Tony Performance


Tonight's live musical event stars Broadway-favorite Aaron Tveit as bad boy Danny and triple threat Julianne Hough as the virtuous Sandy. The production will reintroduce and reimagine the iconic show for this live television event, combining elements of the iconic film and the numerous stage versions.

A new generation will be able to experience the timeless story and songs about teenagers dealing with love and life in the '50s. GREASE: LIVE airs Sunday, January 31st, 2016 7:00-10:00 PM ET/live/PT tape-delayed on FOX!

Get yourself ready by learning the "Hand-Jive" from cast member and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE alum Courtney Galiano.

BroadwayWorld will be your home for the best coverage of GREASE: LIVE all weekend (Check out our coverage home here). We will have a live blog recapping the the show and the Facebook Second Screen experience, we will have a live blog of all of the reactions from Broadway's biggest stars, and will have our TV critic's review shortly after the broadcast ends.

Banner Image: 2009 Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski

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