Grease: A Short Reaction to the Play

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:31 AM

Well, today was Father's Day. So came the question that arrives every year: what to do with Dad to make his day interesting. Mom suggested that she had seen a play in the paper — a local production of Grease. Now, I had not seen the play or movie, nor had she, but we figured Dad would like it.

As a whole, it worked out well in that respect. But, I was thoroughly disappointed with the play itself. The majority of the characters were very unlikable, save for Sandy and “Cha Cha.” The former, the female lead, however, gets a happy ending, but only by switching to the dark side of the “Pink Ladies” (who are anything but lady like), and giving up the virtuousness that makes her likable to begin with. All of the male characters are, to varying degrees, unlikable as well. Sandy, at first, seems to be desirous of a real love, but she seems to give that up for the superficial, shortsighted pleasures and thrills the others seek by the end.

Moreover, the play is absolutely laden with sexual overtones. I am not referring to Shakespearan double entendres, either, but all kinds of overt references. In fact, that was most of the plot (if I can even say it had one). It was suppose to be a comedy and on the surface, it is: Sandy gets her guy in the end. To me, however, I'd say it was actually a tragedy, as Sandy all but sells her soul for some momentary facades of happiness. She seeks love and “improves” by seeking lust instead, a very different thing. Dr. Faustus comes out with a better deal!

Now, I may seem prudish to some, but I just would have hoped there would have been some kind of more meaningful plot. Is there nothing else to focus on in life or in love than physical lusts? Of course there is more, even Hollywood usually gets that much right, despite its generally distorted lens. I think what really disturbed me was the ending. I kept thinking someone would come around and love “Sandra D.” for who she was; that is, someone would improve. Instead, the happy ending requires the corruption of a basically good character. I cannot think of one virtue of the plot, one decent illustration or message to draw out of it, which is a pretty bad sign.

The music was mostly enjoyable — if you didn't listen too hard — but many of the lyrics fit the plot (or lack thereof), and so it did little to redeem the play. Yet, it certainly was not a set of songs I would want to own on CD, even dismissing the content of the lyrics momentarily. The big highlight of the play ended up not being the play at all, but the band that played during the intermission, which did a knockout job of imitating some 50's songs.

Critical Rating: ** (out of 5)

Re: Grease: A Short Reaction to the Play
Hmmm...I'm not sure which surprises me more, that you'd been able to get to this point in life completely unscathed by the musical or that I'd never looked at it critically like that. Goes to show how fresh eyes can open yours. Thinking back I'd have to say you're spot on. I'm not certain about the production you saw, but in the script the leader of the T-birds goes straight for Sandy but when she turns he reverts. Of course you never see his struggle in the play so it's quite contrived and you don't feel a disappointment or loss when he falls back down. Thanks for the review.
Posted by Jason - Jun 20, 2005 | 12:48 PM

Re: Grease: A Short Reaction to the Play
I agree. I saw the flick version long ago, and came to the same conclusion. Even Mad Magazine lampooned that message. The sole bright spot is that I have taken a short section of the song from the final scene, "You're the One that I Want," and sing it to my wife in certain strategic moments.
Posted by Ed Hurst - Jun 20, 2005 | 6:33 PM

Re: Grease: A Short Reaction to the Play
Jason: Yeah, I'm not sure how I pulled that off, but I did. :) I think this script took out a few things, but it seems to me that it fits about what you said. Ed: Speaking of taking things out, that song was missing. It was the only one I knew, and they did not include it! Hrmf.
Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Jun 20, 2005 | 10:04 PM

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