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Grease

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"Grease" is the word when it comes to my favorite musical past-time. But the question is, what was it about the rock and roll era in the 50s that influenced the writers of this stage musical turned movie? Also, how did this type of film affect the popular culture of the past and of today? That is the basis of this paper....

Grease began as a five-hour long amateur show presented in a Chicago trolley barn in the summer of 1971 and eventually made Broadway. The film version of "Grease" began almost immediately. It debuted in 1978, becoming the biggest grossing movie musical in film history. Its eight-year run made Broadway history and put it among today's most popular musicals.

Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey wrote the book, music and lyrics for Grease in 1972. Jacobs was a self-admitted "greaser" himself in the 50's in Chicago. He played guitar and sung with local bands. In 1963, he became involved in a local theater group, where he met Casey, who was an art major at Syracuse University and after teaching in upstate New York, moved to Chicago and soon gravitated toward acting and writing songs. Even though they followed different paths, they met up again in the early seventies and soon began tossing ideas around about doing a modest, inexpensive show that would take an affectionate but honest look at the world of the youth in the fifties.

So how does "Grease" portray the life of the youth in the fifties and what social effects did rock and roll have on the youth in the 50's? In the 50's, a typical teenager would hang out with their friends at malt shops, "necked" at drive-in movies, and gathered around the television with their families. Perhaps the world would be a different place if teenagers would not have gone any further with their exploration of fun. But when rock and roll was introduced, they latched onto the thrilling beat and refused to let go. From the beginning, rock and roll has been associated with youth, rebellion and anti-establishment. Parents hated it and teenagers craved it. Rock and roll drastically changed popular music and became an influential element in teenage culture across the nation. The music's solid rhythm and heavy back beat inspired new forms of dancing that exist today. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes and language.

So the big question is what makes the "Grease" phenomenon continue? One thing that has made it go down in history is the music behind it. Some songs were added to film version that were not in the stage version to reflect the feel of the 50's in songs suited to the disco era. "You're the One That I Want", "Grease", and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" were all composed for the 1978 film. The music has captivated a variety of generations for so many years. Today the music plays at dances, karaoke bars and on the radios across the country, and winds up in almost everyone's music collection at some point during their lives. Every time I hear a song from the movie, it's impossible for me not to sing or hum along, and I know I'm not alone. The young kids, especially those five to twelve years old have heard about "Grease" from their older siblings, have made it their own favorite.

Another reason youth enjoy "Grease" is it deals with events and issues encountered in high school.

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