'Grease' is the word
MANILA, Philippines - What some kids today know of a musical comes from the hugely popular television series “Glee,” on air since 2009. They might think the songs sung on the show are originals, not the cover versions that they really are. Though the show has done much good introducing a new generation to musicals as well as touching upon relevant issues such as bullying and homosexuality, it spoonfeeds ear candy — there is so much more authentic and substantial sonic sustenance to be discovered.
Something essential is lost — rock 'n roll's spirit of rebellion and revolution — when the youth hear a version of it from mainstream commercial television.
With “Glee's” rendition of “Grease” still fresh in the minds of fans after being featured on the show's 6th episode of its 4th season, 9 Works Theatrical fortuitously brings to local audiences the real thing.
“Grease” is no less than Broadway's 14th longest-running show in history and is best known to many for its iconic cinematic 1978 version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. It produced such beloved songs such as “You’re the One that I Want,” “Summer Nights” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”
Rock stars galore
Set to run from November 10 to December 1 at the at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater in RCBC Plaza, Makati City, “Grease” casts a bevy of stars from theater, television and cinema. This mix of theater-pedigreed thespians and talented celebrities is sure to garner more audiences as well as highlight each actor's talents.
Gian Magdangal and Frencheska Farr star as lovebirds from the opposite sides of town: Danny Zuko, the toughie who leads leather-clad gang the T-Birds, and the prim and proper new girl in school Sandy Dumbrowski. Iya Villania and Jennifer Blair-Bianco alternate as the sassy gum-snapping leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo. Rafa Siguion-Reyna plays Betty's love, the heartthrob and T-Bird second-in-command, Kenickie.
The rest of the T-Birds are portrayed by Reb Atadero [Roger], Mark Tayag [Sonny Latierri] and Vince Lim [Doody]. Peachy Atilano [Frenchie] and Sarah Facuri [the compulsive eater Jan] complete the Pink Ladies.
Carlos Canlas plays rock star student Johnny Casino; James Stacey as radio disc jockey Vince Fontaine; Harold Cruz as the bullied nerd Eugene Florcyzk; Sab Jose as cheerleader Patty Simcox; Angela Padilla as English teacher Miss Lynch; and Carmelle Ros as dance phoneme Charlene "Cha-Cha" DiGregori.
As with the original Broadway production, a different celebrity singer will play the role of Teen Angel on every performance night. As with keeping with tradition, the star's identity will be a surprise.
At the helm is director Robbie Guevara with Lorenz Martinez as assistant director. Musical director for instrumentation is Joseph Tolentino while Sweet Plantado-Tiongson serves as musical director for vocals. Choreography is by Arnold Trinidad and Francis Matheu. Set and costume designer is Mio Infante. Lighting designer is John Batalla. Sound designer is Chuck Ledesma. Hair and makeup designer is Myrene Santos. Costumes execution is by Twinkle Zamora.
Set in the 1950s, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's musical was authored and first premiered in 1971. “Grease” reveals the advent of the rock-a-billy craze when white musicians such as Elvis Presley offered a sanitized version of what was an African-American invention to a still-racially-segregated United States. [Kids, please Google and stream the music of Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, the real godfathers of rock 'n roll.]
Nonetheless, “Grease's” music bares the influences of the playwrights' era, with songs such as Frankie Valli's “Grease” bearing some 1970s disco influences such as a boogie beat, horn sections, falsetto vocals and a highly polished production. This is in contrast to Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's “West Side Story” — also set in the 1950s, which completely ignored rock music, still socially unacceptable at the time.
“West Side Story” exposed issues such as racism and gang violence while patterning itself after William Shakespeare’s “Rome and Juliet.” “Grease” is a classic coming-of-age story that also tackles gang violence as well as the rebelliousness of youth, teenage pregnancy and the conflict between rich and poor.
Curiously, despite rock music's African-American roots, Jacobs and Casey completely avoid the issue and do not write any significant roles for African-American characters.
Nonetheless, the musical was groundbreaking in other ways. It broke the formula well established by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, best known for works such as “Sound of Music” and “The King and I.” Instead, “Grease” captured the vitality, rawness and sexuality of rock 'n roll.
It was rock n' roll's anti-establishment and non-conformist attitude that would later make it the anthem of the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, feminism and gender equality, and other important social forces in history that were unleashed soon after rock's birth.
“With rock 'n roll came the lifestyle — the clothing, the smoking, drinking, making fun of teachers, the rebel attitude,” explains Guevara. “You're not just going to see it. You're going to realize why they are doing it and how much it means embracing all the things that make them enjoy life,” he adds.
Watch and listen up kids. It's time for your rock 'n roll education. - Rappler.com
'Grease' runs at the Carlos P Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City on Nov 10 [4pm], Nov 16 [3:30pm], Nov 22 [8pm], Nov 24 [4pm], Nov 29 [8pm], Nov 30 [8pm] and Dec 1 [4pm]. For ticket information, visit TicketWorld.