Review: Sing-a-long-a Grease

Stephanie Wilbur Ash, Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine 8/7/14

It’s not a local show, per se. There’s only one local actor getting paid (mistress of ceremonies Erin Schwab, an Ordway regular and one of the national hosts of licensed Sing-a-long-a products).

But wow: Sing-a-long-a Grease at the Ordway—audience participation encouraged—is about the most fun you can have with local moms in curlers, and their daughters and granddaughters, too.

Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music has been a popular draw for the Ordway already—and if you have not dusted off your lederhosen to make the hills of St. Paul alive with the sound of your singing of that show, you should someday. (Though you may have to wait awhile. No Sing-a-long-a shows are planned right now.)

But where Sound of Music plays into our Cities’ wholesome Nordic charm, Grease plays into the hilarious dichotomy between that wholesomeness and our collective bad girlness.

There were so many “bad girls” at the show last Wednesday night! The costume contest was filled with outright “bad” Sandys, soon-to-be-bad Sandys, Rizzos, and even a pregnant Rizzo. (“The false alarm was not false,” quipped Schwab.) There were pre-pubescent mini Sandys, a Danny Zuko wearing Keens, and a surprising number of Kinickies—why be Kinickie when you can be Danny?—this reviewer wonders. It’s a question for the ages.

When the lights went down and the movie started, the place became lady Baby Boomer mayhem. The mostly female, mostly over-40 audience shouted, cheered, belted lyrics (on the screen for you in the unlikely event you don’t have them burned into memory). We even danced in the aisle. So “bad Sandy”!

The movie itself remains a treat, of course, but the big screen offers new secrets, even for this viewer who (ahem) may or may not have spent the summer in 1984 repeatedly watching and rewinding a VHS tape of it. On the big screen you see in glorious, larger-than-life detail the pillowed lips of Travolta, the sand-dollar wideness of Newton John’s eyes, the more subtle and heartbreaking layers of meaning behind of each of Stockard Channing’s side glances.

The loose pom-pom string that falls sadly at Danny’s feet during his first denial of Sandy? A discovered revelation. The fact that Kinickie is drinking a Schlitz beer? I never knew! The campy artifice of the “Greased Lightning” number? Epic.

And that moment when Danny Zucko first appears on screen, Barry Gibb and Frankie Valli’s proverbial “Grease” question “What are we doing here?” was answered with a thousand deafening screeches: We grown-ass women are here to lose our mother-loving minds over the smoking-hot sex appeal of John Travolta.

Obviously Grease is still the word, Minnesota ladyfriends. You made that loud and clear at the show, in old-school curlers, custom-made satin jackets, and—whether societal norms think you can pull it off or not—skin-tight lycra pants and killer heels.

You were not brought up that way, Twin Cities “bad Sandys,” but clearly that’s not stopping you.

Nor should it. Like Rizzo always says, “Okay, girls. Let’s go get ’em.”

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