Rehearsals couldn't be going better. This is one of the most enthusiastic, adventurous casts I've ever worked with -- never the slightest hesitation, whatever I ask them for, they give it a shot. I ask for deeper, they go deeper. I ask for more real, they get realer. And we're all having such fun along the way.
What a weird profession we're in. Spending tens of thousands of dollars playing make-believe, while others pay to watch. But I'm damn happy to be here. And I hope we always give those others something of value for their money.
We ran through the first act last night, and I saw the first glimpse of what this show is going to be -- definitely not the Grease most people know -- but something really interesting and funny and truthful. I can see in our rehearsals, even in this early form, the Grease that I've been reading about, the Grease that first opened on Broadway and took America by surprise and storm. As much as I love the film, the show is something completely Other, as different from its movie version as Rocky Horror and Hair are from theirs. For the first time, I'm seeing a Grease in which these kids seem like real kids, like the kids Skip grew up with, the kids my brothers and I grew up with. These are flesh-and-blood people, complicated, damaged, adventurous young people discovering their sexuality and their power for the first time. I now see that this Grease, this radical, back-to-the-roots Grease, stands equal to the best and smartest of the concept musicals -- Assassins, Company, Hair, Cabaret, Man of La Mancha, The Cradle Will Rock, Songs for a New World. This is a piece of art.
After our run-through, we had a long talk about this community, these families, this school. Rydell is the kind of high school most of us were thankfully spared. It is a tough school, where survival is paramount. This is not the Rydell High in the movie. (The whole joke of naming the school after the disturbingly bland 50s pop idol Bobby Rydell is that the kids in Grease would absolutely hate Bobby Rydell and his music!) I asked all the actors to develop full character names and interesting, interconnected backstories -- that always makes such a difference for ensemble shows. Even though the audience never knows about most of the backstory, it gives the show real life, it gives the world of the play weight and history and consequence.
So this morning, Scott Tripp (Doody) created an extensive and fascinating backstory, which he posted on his Grease blog. It's really worth a read...
So all in all, things are great. The cast is working hard and having a blast, the choreography is so exactly right on target in every way, and everybody seems to be on board with my approach. I know now that, like our recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar, some people are going to HATE that our Grease will be so different from what they're used to. But I hope there are also lots of people who are delighted to see new depth in this classic show. I honestly think audiences are going to be so charmed and so entertained by this cast that they will embrace them from the first song till the finale. I really do.
Long Live the Musical!