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‘John Travolta was sizzling hot!’: an oral history of Grease

Forty-five years ago, audiences first glimpsed the sun-kissed, palm-lined campus of Rydell High, the school setting for the movie musical Grease. Featuring star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease immersed viewers in the camp melodrama of 1950s adolescence, replete with preening boys, blushing girls and explosive dance numbers.

Based on the 1971 stage musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which had starred actors including Richard Gere and Barry Bostwick, Grease the film swapped the original’s grittier Chicago setting for the steamy heat of the west coast. Centring on the story of the car-obsessed T-Birds and their romances with the chain-smoking Pink Ladies, Grease was met with a mixed reception upon its release in 1978. “I’ve never seen an uglier large-scale musical,” wrote one critic for the Washington Post. In the decades since, though, it has amassed a committed following. Countless spin-offs and revivals have been produced, including Grease 2 in 1982 and a forthcoming prequel series, Grease: The Rise of the Pink Ladies.

We look back at the original film through the eyes of the film’s cast and crew, remembering the summer-long production, their relationships on and off screen, and the musical’s enduring legacy.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 05/04/23]

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