The history of the Broadway production of Grease is a case of a plucky original musical that beat all the odds. Word-of-mouth made Grease--which opened to mixed reviews on February 14, 1972--a popular show. Later in the year, it garnered seven Tony nominations. When it closed after 3,388 performances on April 13, 1980, it had broken the record as the longest-running play or musical on Broadway.
This oral history, as told by the original actors and crew, is skillfully assembled by Tom Moore (the musical's original Broadway director), Adrienne Barbeau (who earned a Tony nomination playing bad-girl Rizzo) and Ken Waissman (who co-produced the show with Maxine Fox). The producers auditioned 2,000 actors to find the original 16 cast members. Barry Bostwick, who played the original Danny Zuko, recalls that the "cruelty of the process was unnerving." Ilene Graff reminisces about playing Sandy during her two-and-a-half-year run, starring opposite 11 actors who played the role of Zuko, including Bostwick, Richard Gere, Jeff Conaway and Treat Williams. Eighteen-year-old John Travolta remembers taking a role in the touring company against advice from other industry professionals. There's also a funny and delightfully starstruck round-robin of memories from the 1976 cast, who recalls the time Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton attended performances and invited the cast out to Sardi's for a drunken gathering.
Five decades haven't dimmed the memories of the cast and crew members of Grease, who have built affectionate friendships. Packed with photos (most are backstage pictures taken by the actors) and warm memories, this engaging oral history is a treat for theatre buffs and earns its standing ovation. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant