Beat JENeration #031: Is this Grease Prequel The One That I Want?

Obviously the big news of the week was the announcement of Summer Loving – the prequel to the 1978 musical Grease currently in development by Paramount Players.

So many feelings about this — some are actually hopeful. Many are weary. And others bitter —falling along the lines of “why now?” and “why this?” And then there’s also rage over how Grease 2 has been bitch-slapped around in all the coverage. 

Wholesome and pure, oh so scared and unsure

Grease is sacred it me. I cannot tell you how many times I saw it in the theater, but I feel like it played in theaters for years. I know I went to see it pretty much weekly for that first summer. It was the late-1970’s and my parents saw no reason why their six-year old daughter shouldn’t ride her bike almost a mile to the AMC Orange Mall 6 to spend the day memorizing every line in a movie about high school thugs, teen-age pregnancy, and succumbing to peer pressure. Of course, I only really saw John Travolta’s dimple, the 50’s fashions, and the choreography. It wasn’t until I was an adult (a full-fledged adult in her late-20’s all married and careered) that I would for the first time truly hear and understand the lyrics in “Greased Lighting” — so truly, no harm, no foul.

The soundtrack album to Grease is the one object that sums up my childhood. I still have it. I still treasure it. I would sit on the floor of my room studying the pictures in the middle fold out as I wore out the vinyl. Of course when I wasn’t dancing around my room and singing on the top of my lungs. This was the soundtrack to all of my hoping and dreaming for my future. It’s only real competition for turn-table time was the Annie Original Broadway Cast Album until 5th grade when The Go-Go’s and Duran Duran came into my life. 

This isn’t my story as much as it is the communal story of all Gen X girls, so yes, I can see why in a post-Mamma-Mia world the entertainment powers-that-be know this will make money. Especially since the prequel model of Mamma-Mia! Here We Go Again proved (in a very Godfather 2-like fashion) that an original can be improved upon when you cast younger, hotter actors as the main characters.

So, yes, I think with the right casting Summer Nights is going to get my money. It will also get my daughters money and the money of all of their musical theatre-loving, raised on Glee!, second-generation Grease obsessed friends. The timing is right for that.

And mascara flows right down my nose because…I don’t trust Hollywood’s choices

While I think John August has some good writing credits under his belt, it’s heavy on Tim Burton screenplays. Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory do not give me confidence that he can pull off a teen romance based on two of the most important cinematic characters to women currently in their 40’s and all the young girls who have followed in their wake. Do we just have to hope he can recreate the magic of Corpse Bride out of the cemetery and onto the beach?

Seriously, was Diablo Cody not available for this? Tina Fey? Why do I feel like Mindy Kailing would rock this? Amy Heckerling. Emma Thompson. Sharon Maguire. Elizabeth Banks. Those are just on the top of my head. A chick director is also necessary.

What if casting sucks? Can Olivia Newton-John be replicated? I’m worried.

What if the music sucks? I mean what if there isn’t music. The initial reports haven’t mentioned anything about music. But there has to be music in a Grease property, right?  Not that I would be worried about new original music. Broadway and Hollywood are dripping with amazing songwriters and composers. It might be stating the obvious, but Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the obvious choice because of their commercial track record. Though might I suggest Jason Robert Brown, Joe Iconis, Lisa Bambert, Sarah Barrilles, Jeanie Tesori and Lisa Kron, Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, or Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor. Just don’t make it a jukebox musical. I’d die.

There are worse things they could do….like not including Rizzo

The prequel is about Sandy and Danny meeting at the beach. This is, I guess, the obvious choice. But we already know what happened — they sang about it.  Of course, their stories differed — so maybe the real story is somewhere in-between Danny’s macho bravado and Sandy’s chaste romantic fairytales. i have always suspected that Sandy wasn’t giving us the full tea.

Like I said, cash is already in hand for my ticket — but wouldn’t it make a better story if Rizzo was in it? Can it also be about Rizzo and Kenicki? We all know he wasn’t just working to save up for a car all summer. Without Rizzo in the movie, I won’t be happy. If she’s in it and the continuity of the original storyline is ruined, I’ll be livid.

I’d also be interested in what Marty Maraschino was up to. That stable of pen-pals didn’t come from nowhere. She’s obvi got the daddy issues, let’s explore that too.

If it takes forever, then I’ll wait forever for Grease 2 to get some damn respect!

Which I guess brings me to Grease 2. I love Grease 2. If I squint hard and harden my heart, I can sort of see why it’s panned — but it is done so unfairly. It’s not all about box office receipts.  Aside from the excellent camp, this is a movie that passes The Bechdel Test and presents us with a female protagonist who is cool and popular without pitting other women against each other and never waivers on who she is in order to get the guy. This is rare AF in 80’s movies, kids.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Stephanie Zinone was a star in every scene. No shit she ended up going far. And “Cool Rider” is hands-down one of the best songs to grace any musical. Don’t even try to argue that fact. Do you think it’s possible we could also fit a young rising Sophomore, Stephanie into the prequel somehow?

Also, “Reproduction” is genius and by playing it for my kids in the car made the whole sex conversation go a little smoother.