Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Musical of the Month: Grease: The Best Songs


I should preface this article by saying two things. First, I find the score of Grease wholly entertaining, in a sing-along, fun kind of way. (Let's face it, you don't listen to Grease the same way as you do Passion.) Second, for me the movie soundtrack is a completely different consideration, no matter how many of the songs make it into subsequent productions. Unless otherwise noted below, I'm talking about these songs in terms of the various Broadway stagings.

Musical of the Month:
The Best Songs

"There Are Worse Things I Could Do"
Easily the best song in the entire score, it sticks out (in a good way) for being a great character song, with emotional depth largely missing from the rest. Makes one wonder what the show would have been like with more of this going on. It is interesting to note that this is one of only two numbers that appear in all versions in virtually the same place in the story. I guess you don't mess with a great thing.

"Summer Nights"
The other song that appears in all versions in the same place in the story is this catchy ditty that tells us a lot about our two protagonists, Danny and Sandy, while also revealing quite a bit about the dynamics between rest of the characters. Plus, it's fun to sing along to, while playing each character!

"We Go Together"
Over the years, this song has appeared in different places in the story. In both the original and 2007 revival, it was the finale of both acts, while the 1994 revival it was part of the opening of the show, and a reprise at the end of the act. Another song that is fun to sing along with, the tongue-twisting rama-lama-ding-dongs and shoo-bop-shoo-waddys requiring some skill and a sense of humor.

"Those Magic Changes"
Relegated to background music in the film, this number is one of the terrific homage sings to the music styling of the nifty 50's. It was particularly great - a full-on production number - in the 1994 revival, with the amazing Sam Harris providing lead vocals.

"Born to Hand Jive"
This toe-tapper is as fun to sing as it is to dance to. And it's great to watch in any of the versions of the show.

"It's Raining On Prom Night"
If it weren't for other songs being added to each of the revivals, this would be Sandy's only solo number. It's a testament to the song that it appears in each production, with or without added songs. It's a charmer - especially the "talking to the music" section.

"Greased Lightning"
This song always seems to be a crowd-pleaser, and I include it on this list for that reason alone. It isn't one of my favorites, but I do get a kick out of the lyric changes between versions. I guess it depends on what you think of the word "pussy." I would love to get my hands on the lyrics to the original original.

The Finales
I think it is telling that no version of Grease ends exactly the same way, musically. The original ends with the unimpressive "All Choked Up." The 1994 revival ends the story (and the show) with the song "Grease" from the film, while the 2007 version ends the story with "You're the One That I Want Want" from the film. The latter makes sense, too, since the leads were cast from a reality show called Grease: You're the One That I Want.

All of the above said, I think the film version of Grease is vastly superior to the stage version. That is something I rarely think is true.

PS: The only good version of "Beauty School Dropout" is the definitive Billy Porter take from the 1994 revival. A golden veneer on a leaden song.


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