Both of the Broadway revivals of Grease relied heavily on stunt casting as their runs progressed. Not so with the original production, which featured a relative novice original cast and subsequent replacements. Instead of bringing in big names, the original churned out actors who would become big names.
Musical of the Month:
The Original Broadway Cast
Of the 16 original cast members, the majority were making their Broadway debuts. A few others counted Grease as their first major credit after one or two other shows. Only the actors playing Vince Fontaine (Don Billett) and Danny Zuko (Barry Bostwick) brought extensive resumes to the show. Of course, now Mr. Bostwick is famous far beyond Broadway.
The Original Broadway Company
Barry Bostwick Adrienne Barbeau
Walter Bobbie Ilene Kristen
Others in the original company went on to big careers, too, like Adrienne Barbeau (Rizzo), who went on to play Bea Arthur's daughter on Maude, and made several films. Recently, she played Berthe in the national tour of Pippin. Ilene Kristen (Patty Simcox) went on to become a beloved soap character on One Life to Live. Walter Bobbie (Roger) has become a big name in directing - he is the guy behind the longest-running America musical on Broadway, Chicago.
Barry Bostwick and Timothy Meyers
Carole Demas and Barry Bostwick
Three members of the cast were nominated for Tony Awards - Bostwick, Barbeau, and Timothy Meyers (Kenickie). The very first Sandy, Carole Demas, counts Grease as her only Broadway credit.
John Travolta (left) Richard Gere (right)
Adrian Zmed (center) and the final Broadway Company
Over its eight year run, there were many replacements, many of whom went on to be quite well-known. Like I said, Grease seemed to be a springboard for fame. Some of the "now famous" replacements include: Marilu Henner (Marty), Chess' Philip Casnoff (Johhny Casino/Teen Angel), Greg Evigan (Danny), Peter Gallagher (Danny), Richard Gere (Sonny), two-time Tony winner Judy Kaye (Rizzo), David Paymer (Sonny), Patrick Swayze (Danny), Treat Williams (Danny), and Adrian Zmed (Danny). Famous understudies include Rex Smith and Tony winner Randy Graff.
Scott Ellis Jerry Zaks
Walter Bobbie wasn't the only cast member who went on to directing glory. Other actors-turned-director from the original production include: John S. Driver (Roger), who also wrote the book and lyrics for both Ride the Wind and Shogun, 9-time Tony nominee Scott Ellis (Doody), and 4-time Tony winner Jerry Zaks (Kenickie).
Jeff Conaway and Ilene Graff
Several Broadway cast members also appeared in the movie (Broadway/Film): Jeff Conaway (Danny/Kenickie), Jamie Donnelly (Jan/Jan), John Travolta (Doody/Danny), and Michael Tucci (Teen Angel/Sonny).
We'll talk about the casts of the revivals next week!