As a plucky, young sophomore in high school, my friends and I practically begged our theater director to let our school perform the stage production of Grease for our spring musical. It all seemed like a good idea. After all, a play about high schoolers in the late 1950's fits a high school play perfectly. The characters are relatable, the songs are catchy, and we could wear leather jackets and jeans. All in all, Grease kicks Oklahoma's ass.
Our crusty director never let us perform Grease, citing that it was too risque for a bunch of kids to perform. He asserted that the language and theme would make parents and grandparents uncomfortable. We retorted that any movie that starred Olivia Newton John cannot be that bad. She sang songs about summer love and exercise. Why would Olivia Netwon John put her name on anything inappropriate for high school kids? With the way they talked about Grease, you would have thought that it's all about sex.
That's because Grease is all about sex. I know this because I just sat through a rather uncomfortable high school rendition of the play. It started making me squeemish when a bunch of teenagers started singing about screwing in the sand. My stomach clenched a bit after Grease Lightning made chicks cream. And my soul died a bit when I witnessed my nephew honking some girl's adolescent knockers. Now I know why Mr. Baird made our class stick to playing ruthless, singing gangsters instead of horny teenagers.
For those who never seen the play or the much tamer movie, let me give you a little snippet of a song without all the alluring music:
We'll get some overhead lifters, and four barrel quads, oh yeah
Keep talkin', whoah keep talkin'
Fuel injection cut off, and chrome plated rods, oh yeah
I'll get the money, I'll see you get the money
With a four-speed on the floor, they'll be waitin' at the door
You know that ain't shit when we'll be gettin' lots of tit in greased lightnin'
Go, greased lightnin', you're burnin' up the quarter mile
Greased lightnin', go greased lightnin'
Go, greased lightnin', you're coastin' through the heat lap trials
Greased lightnin', go greased lightnin'
You are supreme, the chicks'll cream for greased lightnin'
We'll get some purple French tail lights and thirty-inch fins, oh yeah
A palomino dashboard and duel muffler twins, oh yeah
With new pistons, plugs, and shocks, I can get off my rocks
You know that I ain't braggin', she's a real pussy wagon - greased lightnin'
I seem to recall watching Grease at nine years old. My sister watched it so much by the time she turned 13 that we had to buy a new VHS tape. Perhaps I was distracted by the Hand Jive and all that leather, but the idea that every single scene revolved around sex never entered my fragile little mind. The only thing that really bothered me was that Sandy felt like she had to change and start smoking in order to get her man. And that the car flew at the end. Perhaps these teens putting on the play are as clueless as I was at that age.
But there's a difference between watching and acting. With acting you need to digest the lines and derive meaning. When you're watching a play you might gloss over lines about how "horny" the characters say they are, but when you rehearse the lines over and over, you can't miss what's going on. Even for the audience it's different. There's a bigger separation from reality when watching 30-somethings pretending to be teenagers on screen and watching actual teenagers on stage, especially in close proximity of parents and grandparents.
And the worse part...the kids acted superbly. They sang fluidly, acted believably, and looked like they were having fun every step of the way. I don't know how a northern suburb of Indianapolis amasses such talent, but they really knocked it right out of the park. The kid who played Sonny might even make it big!
Anyways, I'm probably being a big prude. No one else seemed uncomfortable as the crowd erupted in a huge ovation at the end of the song about how Rizzo would rather be pregnant than a tease. Perhaps I'll just have to accept that sex and teenagers go hand in hand, or that today's youth have absolutely no clue as to what's going on.
Besides I'm kinda looking forward to their next performance--I hear good things about The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.