Show Synopsis and More
What is Grease About?
It’s 1959, and Rydell High School’s senior class is in rare form. The too-cool-for-school “Burger Palace Boys” are stealing hub-caps and acting tough and their gum-snapping, chain-smoking “Pink Ladies” are looking hot in bobby sox and pedal pushers. The 1950s high school dream is about to explode in this rollicking musical that is both an homage to the idealism of the fifties and a satire of high schoolers’ age-old desire to be rebellious, provocative and rebellious. At the heart of the story is the romance between hot-rodding gangster Danny Zuko and the sweet new girl in town, Sandy Dumbrowski. They had a secret romance in summer, but now back in the context of school, peer-pressure and cliques make their love a bit more complicated. Can Danny maintain his cool dude status and still get make demure Sandy his girl? The whole gang sings and dances around Danny and Sandy’s romance, through such hit songs as “Greased Lightnin'”, “We Go Together”, and “Mooning”, recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. Starting off with an eight-year Broadway run, Grease is among the world’s most popular musicals and has a cult-like following, especially among teens!
– Synopsis provided by StageAgent.com
Below is a number of clips from the most recent production on Broadway for a glimpse of what to expect.
Themes from the show:
Grease discusses social issues such as teenage pregnancy, peer pressure, and gang violence. Some of the themes include:
- teenage rebellion
- sexual exploration during adolescence
- class consciousness/class conflict.
If you feel affected by any of the themes brought up in Grease, please check out any of these resources:
Crisis Text Line: 741741
24 HOUR TEEN HOTLINE 415.621.2929
Huckleberry Youth Programs: HuckleberryYouth.org;
Dealing with Peer Pressure: www.kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/peer_pressure.html
Youth Gangs & Violence: cvsolutions.org
Dropping Out—Challenge & Solutions: http://trendsinstitution.org/dropping-out-challenges-and-solutions/
Local Alternative Ed Resources: marinschools.org/page/6299
1950s History: https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/1950s
Smoking Prevention: smokefreemarin.com
Family Communication: CommonSenseMedia.org
Family Services: NorthMarinCS.org
Violence Prevention: futureswithoutviolence.org
Artists United to Make America Safe Again: TooManyBodies.org
The World of the Show – 1959
- President of US: Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Vice President of US: Richard Nixon
- Average Cost of new house: $12,400.00
- Average Yearly Wages: $5,010.00
- Federal Hourly Minimum Wage: $1
- Public 4 year college cost: $810
- Cost of a gallon of Gas: 25 cents
- Unemployment: 6.8% (US Unemployment reaches 1.4 million)
- Average Cost of a new car: $2,200.00
- Movie Ticket: $1.00
- Loaf of Bread: 20 cents
- Ladies Stockings: $1.00
- Hula Hoops Sold: 100,000,000
- Panty Hose were invented
- 86% households had a TV
Context for the characters and time of the play. What can you discuss about the changes from 1959 until now?
Cats and Chicks: Guys and Girls, but kittens also meant girls as in “throw your mittens around your kittens”
Foam Domes: Falsies or something to make someone’s bust look bigger
Fongool: Americanized Italian curse word, equivalent to “up yours”
Hand-Jive: A dance where everyone lines up and follows a sequence or hand movements in time to the music
Hop: A dance party
Jive: jazz slang from 1930’s and 40’s. The language of “swing” came to mean everything that was hip, including a dance and musical style of the same name
Get Bent: dismissive slang term
Skivvies: slang for underwear generally trunks or briefs
Jugs: slang for a woman’s breasts
Mooning: exposing one’s behind to someone in order to insult or amuse them
Steno Pool: A group of employees able to take shorthand
Sneaky Pete: Cheap wine
Some of the slang and terms used by the characters of Grease invoke immediate character and era. Each word a playwright or lyricist uses is an important part of telling the story. These aren’t all words we would use today but what do they tell you about these kids?
- Little Lulu – A comic strip created in 1935 and later a theatrical animated shorts, she was a tough little girl with corkscrew curls
- Howdy Doody – Puppet on a Children’s TV Program from 1947-1960
- Boola Boola – Football song of Yale University
- Gidget – a fictional character created by author Frederick Kohner in his 1957 novel. It follows the adventures of a teenage girl and her surfing friends on the beach in Malibu. The name Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget”.
- Kookie– Character played by Edd Byrnes on “77 Sunset Strip”
- Dear Abby – American advice column founded in 1956
- Maiden-Form – Brand of Bras and undergarments that accentuated the natural shape of a woman’s figure
- Bucky Beaver – 1950s Ipana toothpaste cartoon spokes-beaver
- Pedal Pushers – calf-length trousers popular in the 50s and 60s
Engage and connect- Have you heard of this famous figures and things reference in the play Grease. Expand your knowledge about 1950’s pop culture and get a deeper understanding of the show.
- Sandra Dee – born Alexandra Zuck was an American actress. Best known for her portrayal of ingénues, she became a teenage star for her performance in and Gidget. By the late 1960s, her career had started to decline, and a highly publicized marriage to Bobby Darin ended in divorce. She rarely acted after this time, and her final years were marred by illness. She died in 2005 at age 62 of complications from kidney disease, brought on by a lifelong struggle with anorexia nervosa.
- Doris Day – born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff is an American actress, singer, and animal welfare activist. After she began her career as a big band singer in 1939, her popularity increased with her first hit recording “Sentimental Journey” (1945). She recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century.
- Fabian – 1950’s and 60’s singer, actor, and teen idol
- Princess Grace – Grace Patricia Kelly was an American film actress who became Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956.
- Troy Donohue – Troy Donahue was an American film and television actor and singer. He was a popular male sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Debbie Reynolds – an American actress, singer and businesswoman. Her career spanned almost 70 years. Her breakout role was Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
- Annette Funicello – Annette Joanne Funicello was an American actress, singer and popular Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club.
- Rock Hudson – American actor, generally known for his turns as a “heartthrob” leading man during the 1950s and 1960s.
- Shelly Fabares – American actress, singer and 50s girl-next-door
- Ricky Nelson – American actor, singer and song-writer; 1950s teen idol
- Alan Freed – American disc jockey widely credited for coining the term Rock and Roll
1959 Timeline for the Graduating Greasers
When we look at the 1950s and 60s there are definitely years that stick out as notable historic shifts. 1959 was the end of the WWII economic development, Cold War expansion, and baby boomer decade into a precipitous shift of the sexual revolution, student rebellions, and a mature civil rights movement gathering speed. The teens of Grease had a lot going on around them!
Jan 1, Fidel Castro proclaimed the triumph of his revolution from the balcony of Santiago’s city hall.
Jan 5, The “Bozo the Clown” live children’s show premiered on TV.
Jan 3, President Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Alaska to the Union as the 49th state.
Jan 22, The Adolph Coors Co. of Golden, Colombia, introduced the aluminum beer can.
Jan 25, American Airlines opened the jet age in the United States with the first scheduled transcontinental flight of a Boeing 707 from LA to NY for $301.
Jan 29, Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” was released.
Feb 1, Texas Instruments requested a patent for the IC (Integrated Circuit), otherwise known as the microchip.
Feb 3, A plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, claimed the lives of rock- and-roll stars Buddy Holly (22), Ritchie Valens (17) and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (28). They had just finished performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.
Feb 20, Jimi Hendrix (16), rock and roll guitarist, plays his first gig in the Temple De Hirsch synagogue basement, Seattle. He is fired from the band after the 1st set due to “wild” playing.
Mar 2, Miles Davis began recording “Kind of Blue” with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Philley Joe Jones, Paul Chambers and Bill Evans.
Mar 3, The new home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team was officially named, Candlestick Park.
Mar 8, Groucho, Chico and Harpo made their final TV appearance together.
Mar 9, The Barbie doll was unveiled at the American Toy Fair in New York City. The Barbie Doll No. 1 was introduced by Mattel Toy Company for $3.
Mar 10, Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth,” premiered in NYC.
Mar 11, The Lorraine Hansberry drama “A Raisin in the Sun” opened at New York City’s Ethel Barrymore Theater.
Mar 16, John Sailling (111), last documented Civil War vet, died.
Mar 17, The Dalai Lama fled Tibet and went to India.
Mar 28, China announced the dissolution of the Tibetan government.
Mar 29, Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon premiered.
Apr 1, Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final play together, opened
Apr 7, Oklahoma ended prohibition after 51 years.
Apr 9, Frank Lloyd Wright (b.1869), American architect (Guggenheim Museum, NYC), died in Arizona.
Apr 15, Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin a goodwill tour of the United States.
Apr 17, A nationwide US air raid drill suspended most television and radio programs for a half hour.
May 4, First annual Grammy Awards, with winners including Ella Fitzgerald, Ross Bagdasarian, Count Basie, Domenico Modugno, Henry Mancini, as well as Ted Keep for engineering “The Chipmunk Song” performed by David Seville.
May 19, The Peoples’ Army of Vietnam’s Military Transportation Group 559 formed on the 69th birthday of Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. It ultimately resulted in the creation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
May 20, Japanese-Americans regain their citizenship with the return of their U.S. Passports.
Jun, Jay Manley, our intrepid director, graduated Berkeley High School.
Jun 2, Allen Ginsberg wrote his poem “Lysergic Acid,” in San Francisco.
Jun 28, The first human died of HIV in the Congo.
July 8, Charles Ovnand and Dale R. Buis become the first Americans killed in action in Vietnam.
Jul 17, Jazz singer Billie Holiday dies at age 44.
Jul 24, During a visit to the Soviet Union, VP Richard M. Nixon got into a “kitchen debate” with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at a US exhibition.
Aug 21, Hawaii joins the Union as the 50th state.
Sep 11, The US Congress passed a bill authorizing food stamps for poor Americans.
Sep 12, NBC launched “Bonanza,” the first color western on TV.
Sep 14, The Soviet space probe Luna 2 became the first man-made object to reach the moon as it crashed onto the lunar surface.
October 2, Rod Serling’s classic anthology series The Twilight Zone premieres on CBS.
Oct 21, The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), opened in NYC.
Oct 31, A former U.S. Marine from Fort Worth, Texas, announced in Moscow that he would never return to the United States. His name: Lee Harvey Oswald.
Nov 18, “Ben-Hur,” the Biblical-era movie spectacle starring Charlton Heston, had its world premiere in New York. On the same date, “A Summer Place” was released, launching the career of Sandra Dee.
December 1, Cold War – Antarctic Treaty: 12 countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, sign a landmark treaty, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve and bans military activity on that continent (the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War).
From the end of 1959, women had to wait only 6 more months and 23 days before the first contraceptive pill is made available by the FDA for public use.
Taking a deeper look at what happened during the year 1959 gives a clearer context for the show. What might these teens be experiencing that is a lot like us today, or what was drastically different.