Monday, December 29, 2014

Summer Lovin': Grease Sing-a-Long

"Summer fling, don't mean a thing, but uh-oh, those summer nights." In a memorable split-screen duet, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) sang those lyrics in Grease, the 1978 '50s-nostalgia musical that surfaced during the first days of disco and the heady days of punk.

Summer Lovin': Grease Sing-a-Long

Olivia Newton-John and Travolta in "Grease"
Olivia Newton-John and Travolta in "Grease"

"Summer fling, don't mean a thing, but uh-oh, those summer nights."

In a memorable split-screen duet, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) sang those lyrics in Grease, the 1978 '50s-nostalgia  musical that surfaced during the first days of disco and the heady days of punk.The chemistry between the blonde in the poodle skirt and the ebony-haired dude in the black  leather jacket -- playing off the timeless fascination of good girls for bad boys (and vice-versa) -- made them irresistible. While for Flickgrrl, then listening to Blondie's "Heart of Glass," Grease definitely was not love at first sight, she would now describe it as America's sweetheart.

The top-grossing movie musical of all time (though in adjusted dollars, the winner of that horserace is probably The Wizard of Oz), Grease is back, this time as a sing-a-along. Last month, a special screening of the Grease sing-a-long (the lyrics appear on-screen, like subtitles) at Love Park drew 1,000 Philadelphians. This Friday, the sing-a-long comes to AMC Neshaminy for an open run.

What is it about Grease, that movie throwback to American Bandstand-homogenized pop, that is so winning? In 1978, I laughed when Stockard Channing (as Rizzo) sent up Sandy's purity in the song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," but thought the movie and the music otherwise contrived. In the intervening years, I have looked back more appreciatively at the film as a stepping stone in Travolta's transition from Tiger Beat heartthrob to leading man, and as a fantasy of America in the 1950s. Like Good News, the 1940s musical set in the 1920s) and High School Musical,  the recentish Disney powerhouse that could be set in the 1970s, and Hairspray (the recentish musical set in the eternal 1960s), Grease is a peppy paean to an idealized American youth. Your thoughts? Alternatively, your favorite high-school or college musical? Any takers for Spike Lee's School Daze?

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Consider our Movies blog your essential guide to new movies and classics, interviews with filmmakers and stars, news and views on the latest screen trends, reviews and the occasional rant.

Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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