40 years later, ‘Grease’ is still an in­spi­ra­tion

The Korea Times - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Luaine Lee (Tri­bune News Ser­vice)

The clas­sic movie mu­si­cal “Grease” will be 40 years old on Satur­day and all tuned in for a whole new gen­er­a­tion to dis­cover. The col­or­ful teens at Ry­dell High are still croon­ing about prom night, drop­ping out of beauty school and heat­ing up the dance floor with “You’re the One That I Want.”

Ex­pec­ta­tions were minis­cule when the John Tra­volta/Olivia New­ton-John star­rer was re­leased in 1978. Based on a Broad­way mu­si­cal, the film about greaser Danny and goody-two-shoes Sandy went on to be­come the high­est gross­ing mu­si­cal of the 20th cen­tury, though it cost Paramount a measly $6 mil­lion to make.

It turns out “Grease” was more than a hit movie. To many ac­tors who went on to find their own fame, it was an in­spi­ra­tion.

Rob Mor­row (“Num­b3ers,” “Bil­lions”) says it changed his life. “I went to the movie ‘Grease’ and had never thought about act­ing. It never oc­curred to me,” he says. “I knew I’d never be the kind of per­son that would have a tra­di­tional job in that I went to the same place and did ba­si­cally the same thing for a long time. I was con­scious of that, but I watched John Tra­volta, and there was some­thing about the joy, the fun he seemed to be hav­ing — and I knew he was mak­ing a liv­ing — and I thought, ’That’s for me.’”

Mar­ilu Hen­ner (“Taxi,” “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine”) got her start with the show. “When I was in high school a friend of mine wrote a show and said, ’We’re go­ing to per­form this in a con­verted trol­ley barn, and I want you to be a part of it. It’s called “Grease.”’ So I did the first orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion of ’Grease’ ever. When the first na­tional com­pany came up, I got the part!”

For Omar Epps (“House,” “Res­ur­rec­tion”), the con­nec­tion came early. “I did a school play in the sixth grade, and we did ’Grease,” and I had a re­ally small role. But that high, that con­nec­tion with the crowd, that was it! I think that was when I was bit by the bug.”

Vanessa Hud­gens (“High School Mu­si­cal,” “Pow­er­less”) went on to play Rizzo in Fox’s live ver­sion of the show. “I hon­estly can’t re­mem­ber the first time I saw ‘Grease,’” she says. “I feel like ‘Grease’ has just al­ways been a part of my life. It’s al­ways been on in my house. I can’t re­mem­ber my life be­fore ‘Grease’ al­most.”

Al­though Brooke Shields (“Sud­denly Su­san,” “Flower Shop Mys­ter­ies”) had been act­ing for 19 years, she says it wasn’t un­til she did “Grease” on the stage that she took it se­ri­ously.

“I de­cided I wanted to be an ac­tress,” she says. “I think the dif­fer­ence be­tween want­ing to per­form and re­ceive ap­proval vs. re­ally go­ing home at night and in­stead of feel­ing good be­cause some­one likes you and you did a good job — be­cause I re­ally did thrive on be­ing a pro­fes­sional, be­cause you get a lot of ap­proval as a child. ... It wasn’t un­til 1993 when I did ‘Grease,’ that’s when I re­ally said, ‘I want to give this my best shot.’”

Tom Ca­vanagh (“The Flash,” “Royal Pains”) launched his ca­reer in “Grease.”

“In col­lege I was play­ing bas­ket­ball and they do one show there a year and did ‘Grease,’” he says. “So I au­di­tioned for role of Danny Zuko, and the bas­ket­ball guys were adamant that I was too short to be an ac­tor. To which I re­sponded the world does not re­volve around an av­er­age size of 6-foot-4 like these gen­tle­men. I’m ac­tu­ally 6 feet. In the av­er­age world, that’s not small at all. I went and au­di­tioned and I got the job ... That show was seen by an agent, ac­tu­ally a di­rec­tor who was with an agency who put me in touch with the agency in Toronto. And they signed me. And I got lucky.”

Sut­ton Fos­ter (“Bun­heads,” “Younger”) also owes her start to “Grease.”

“I lived at home with my par­ents. I waited ta­bles — was sort of lost. Then I flew up to New York to visit my brother who was work­ing on a Broad­way show. And there were sev­eral open-calls up there and my mom en­cour­aged me to au­di­tion,” she says.

“And my brother and his girl­friend at the time helped me pre­pare. And I got cast in a na­tional tour of ‘Grease.’ And four days later was flown to San Francisco and at 19, I was trav­el­ing around the coun­try in a na­tional tour! I feel that life had helped me out there. I was in the en­sem­ble. I’m a gypsy, an en­sem­ble girl, who crawled her way to the top. I did ‘Grease’ for a year and a half, and my Broad­way de­but was with ‘Grease.’”

Michael Rosen­baum (“Smal­lville,” “Guardians of the Gal­axy Vol. 2”) was too timid to try act­ing at first.

“I was tak­ing drama classes, but I was still ner­vous and shy and my teacher said — I was a se­nior — she said, ‘Lis­ten, you can’t take Drama 4 un­less you au­di­tion for a play.’ I said, ‘Awwww.’ To me it (had been) an easy A. You just got up there and read some plays. Drama’s an easy-A. I said, ‘ OK, and au­di­tioned for ‘Grease.’ Doesn’t ev­ery ac­tor au­di­tion for ‘Grease’? I got the part of Vince Fon­taine,” he says.

“‘Hey, hey this is the main brain, Vince Fon­taine, spin the sacks of wax here at the house of wax, WAXX.’ I still re­mem­ber be­cause I was so ner­vous. The next morn­ing I was walking down the hall­way and a cou­ple of the pop­u­lar kids — I re­mem­ber this pop­u­lar kid, Chris Prow, said, ‘Hey, you’re pretty funny.’ So for me, not be­ing me, on stage I could be any weird, ec­cen­tric — any­thing I wanted to do on stage, I could do. I didn’t feel like I was be­ing judged. It was MY time.”

Ju­lianne Hough (“Danc­ing with the Stars,” “Safe Haven,”) went on to play Sandy in Fox’s live ver­sion of “Grease.”

“I put the pro­duc­tion on in my base­ment when I was, like, 5 years old,” she says. “I was Sandy, and then, dur­ing the dance scene, I turned into Cha-Cha, and then I went back to Sandy.”

Reelz will cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary with the be­hind-the-scenes story on the mo­tion pic­ture when it premieres “‘Grease’: Be­hind Closed Doors” Satur­day at 9 p.m. East­ern/6 p.m. Pa­cific.

‘Idol’ au­di­tions be­gin next month

If you dream of be­ing the next “Amer­i­can Idol,” take heart. Two au­di­tion buses from ABC will kick into high gear on Aug. 25, trav­el­ing on both coasts for that golden throat. So far the net­work has lined up 20 cities where au­di­tions will be held, start­ing in San Diego and Or­lando, Fla. More will be added later. Un­like other tal­ent shows, this one re­quires con­tes­tants be at least 15. More rules and reg­u­la­tions, and au­di­tion cities and dates may be found at www.amer­i­canidol.com/au­di­tions. Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie will be back in the judges’ seats. Ryan Seacrest con­tin­ues to host.

Asteroid con­tin­ues crash course with earth

Sea­son 2 of CBS’ “Sal­va­tion” re­turns on June 25, al­low­ing view­ers to seize one more chance to view what hap­pens if an asteroid col­lides with Earth. The se­ries stars Jen­nifer Fin­ni­gan, Char­lie Rowe and San­ti­ago Cabr­era. Fin­ni­gan plays the Pen­tagon’s press sec­re­tary. Cabr­era stars as a bil­lion­aire techy who hooks up with Rowe (a bril­liant MIT eg­ghead) in try­ing to im­pede the asteroid’s tra­jec­tory.

Cabr­era, who lived all over the world when he was grow­ing up, says, “I never knew I was go­ing to be an ac­tor. I didn’t re­ally have any ref­er­ence or any­one in my fam­ily do­ing it. But when I dis­cov­ered it, ev­ery­thing made sense ... Then I went to drama school think­ing I wanted to do com­edy, and you come out want­ing to be Mar­lon Brando.”

Handout-Tri­bune News

Olivia New­ton-John, left, and John Tra­volta costar in the hit mu­si­cal “Grease,” which is cel­e­brat­ing its 40th birth­day, Satur­day.

Handout-Tri­bune News

Jjohn Tra­volta, left, and Olivia New­ton-John in a mu­si­cal num­ber from the hit 1978 mu­si­cal, “Grease,” which will cel­e­brate its 40th birth­day, Satur­day. REELZ will of­fer a spe­cial, “‘Grease’: Be­hind Closed Doors.”

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