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50 Years of Grease: The Broadway Show that Impacted America

On Monday, February 14, 1972, the musical “Grease” opened off broadway. It had a much different reputation from the show that is known as today.

It was $20,000 in debt and had discomforting reviews from critics all over. However, the director of the show, Tom Moore pushed forward to see where the show would go, which went on to become the upbeat, joyful, and charismatic musical with iconic songs and dance numbers.

The underdog story is an example of what Grease is. This story has just become a compilation of memories titled “Grease: Tell Me More, Tell Me More”, full of tales from cast members, directors, and others.

An article on this book from the Associated Press describes the show’s 50’s nostalgia. “All successful musicals leave members with fond memories, but ‘Grease’ was different in that it was an ensemble musical that employed young actors all of roughly the same age — ideally, close to high school. It was often an actor’s first big break and that reflected the themes of the show,” the news service wrote.

Not only is the year of 1972 a historical time for “Grease”, but so is the month of June. The film of the same title opened on Friday, June 16, 1978 and earned a box office total of $36.2 million, which is over $250 million today.

Six happy young adults smiling and looking directly at the camera. They are wearing 1970's style outfits
John Travolta (center) in the Broadway cast of “Grease”

There is also an overlap in the history of this story. John Travolta, who is infamous in the film as Danny Zuko, was in the Broadway production as T-Bird Doody.

​"Grease Fun Facts"

1. Three songs from the film, “Grease”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, and “You’re the One that I Want” were never in the original Broadway musical. “Hopelessly Devoted” wasn’t even written until halfway through filming! Another song that was written for the movie was Danny’s solo, “Sandy”.

2. Potential cast members for Sandy were Carrie Fisher and Marie Osmond

3. Stars such as Jeff Conaway (Kenickie in the film), Richard Gere from the film “Pretty Woman”, and Patrick Swayze of “Dirty Dancing” have all portrayed Danny Zuko on Broadway

4. 50s star Elvis Presley was considered for the Teen Angel character who sings “Beauty School Dropout”, but he passed away during filming.

5. Although this is a high school show, the film’s cast members were older than their characters. The oldest lead actor was Stockard Channing (Rizzo) 31, and youngest were Dina Manoff (Marty) and Kelly Ward (T-Bird Putzie), both 19.

Director Angelo DeFazio explains how this show of friendship, love, and camaraderie affects all people.

“I think that this show has such an impact after 50 years because of what it makes people feel,” said DeFazio. He added that this musical is an ode to music from the 1950s and “a foundation for today’s music”, as well as that all people from all generations can relate to the characters and their plotlines.

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