On October 16th and 17th, the Cape Symphony performed live as we showed the full length movie of Grease! Grease: The Film with Live Orchestra was an unforgettable event: one of the all-time most popular movie musicals combined with the talented musicians of our orchestra!
Grease: From Stage to Screen
Did you know that Grease was first performed in a Chicago nightclub in 1971? The musical then moved to Broadway in 1972, receiving seven Tony nominations and running until 1980, making it briefly the longest-running show in Broadway history until overtaken by A Chorus Line. Many actors from the original 1970s run went on to major fame, Richard Gere and Patrick Swayze among them.
When the musical was adapted into a movie, the setting was moved from an urban Chicago high school to a suburban location (and was filmed in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, giving it a distinctly southern California feel). The casting of Olivia Newton-John caused a rewrite to make Sandy an Australian student who has transferred to Rydell High for senior year (thankfully, Newton-John did not attempt an American accent, since she had only appeared in two minor films in the late ‘60s). John Travolta had already made Saturday Night Fever with producer Robert Stigwood, and Travolta recommended the first-time film director, Randall Kleiser, who had directed him in the television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.
Grease was released in June 1978 and became an instant hit, ultimately the highest-grossing film of the year. It knocked The Sound of Music out of the top spot as the highest-grossing musical of all time, a record Grease held until 2012 when Les Miserables took over. The movie is number 20 on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest movie musicals.
The music of Grease is iconic! It’s a fifties throwback with performers like Frankie Valli, Frankie Avalon, and Sha-Na-Na. Robert Stigwood brought in a bit of the 1970s when he commissioned Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees to write the title song. Plus, there’s all the amazing songs like “Summer Nights,” “You're the One That I Want,” and “We Go Together,” performed by Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, and the whole Rydell High gang. The soundtrack album was the second-best-selling album of 1978, only because Saturday Night Fever was the number one album.
Olivia Newton-John: Still Devoted to Grease
Check out this clip from the movie featuring Olivia Newton-John performing "Hopelessly Devoted to You." The Academy Award-nominated song was written especially for the movie and wasn't part of the original stage musical. In addition to singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You” at the 1979 Oscars, Newton-John performed the number three Billboard hit at the Grammy Awards in 1979, where she was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Before Grease, Olivia Newton-John was what we would today call a crossover artist, riding the waves of country and pop music, not unlike Taylor Swift. Her recording career began in the late ‘60s and she was a star in the U.K. before hitting it big in the U.S. as a country star, winning a Grammy for Best Country Female and an Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Grease changed both Newton-John’s career and her style, as she underwent a Sandy-like transformation, releasing her next solo album late in 1978, Totally Hot, with herself on the cover dressed in leather. Over the next few years, her sound continued to be more pop/dance, with her platinum selling Physical from 1981 becoming one of the most ubiquitous songs of the ‘80s.
In 2018, for Grease’s 40th anniversary, Newton-John told Billboard magazine, "I think the songs are timeless," Newton-John said. "They're fun and have great energy. The '50s-feel music has always been popular, and it's nostalgic for my generation, and then the young kids are rediscovering it every 10 years or so, it seems. People buying the album was a way for them to remember those feelings of watching the movie and feelings of that time period. I feel very grateful to be a part of this movie that's still loved so much."
Star of the 1970s John Travolta
Olivia's fabulous co-star, John Travolta, caused a worldwide sensation with this Elvis-like performance of "Greased Lightnin'" alongside the other T-Birds. The famous song was part of the original out-of-town tryout of Grease in Chicago and was one of the few numbers to make it unchanged from the earliest days of the musical to Broadway and then to the film. The only difference was that the lead was originally sung by the Kenickie character, but naturally was given to John Travolta in the movie, and who could imagine anything else?
John Travolta was already a TV and movie star when Grease came out in the summer of 1978, appearing in Welcome Back, Kotter, Carrie, and Saturday Night Fever, for which he received an Oscar nomination. Indeed, he was already an icon of the era, embodying the disaffected young man. A high school dropout himself, Travolta performed in the touring company of Grease before taking on the role of Vinnie Barbarino on Kotter, which launched his career.
In the 1970s, he could do no wrong; his career took a downturn in the 1980s, but soared again after Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction, earning a second Oscar nomination. Travolta went to the Cannes Film Festival screening of Grease in 2018, part of the 40th anniversary celebration, where he said, "I’m anticipating singing along with the screening and dancing like everyone else."
Special Guest Film Conductor Thiago Tiberio
Our guest conductor for Grease: The Film with Live Orchestra is a young and energetic new talent with a budding international career, Thiago Tiberio. He’s a specialist in musical synchronization to film, having conducted orchestras in scoring sessions and in live-to-picture concert productions, such as "Star Wars Live in Concert" and "Lord of the Rings Live in Concert," so he’s the perfect addition to the Grease: The Film with Live Orchestra experience! Learn more about how Thiago reconstructed the lost score of Grease and the challenges of conducting an orchestra in sync with a movie on our Watch page.
If you have your tickets, we look forward to welcoming you to Grease: The Film with Live Orchestra – and if you don’t have tickets yet, we encourage you to join us! For tickets, visit capesymphony.org or call 508.362.1111.