From T-Birds to Beauty School Dropouts, All Were Singing Along At The Hollywood Bowl For Grease Review: Grease Sing-A-Long w/ Didi Conn, Sha Na Na & Special Guests @ Hollywood Bowl 06/30/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- The Hollywood Bowl summer schedule includes a number of unabashed crowd pleasers, and the Grease Sing-A-Long certainly fit the bill. Continuing my one-man mission to add a touch of the ridiculous to this blog, I eagerly and unironically dug out my most Grease-worthy outfit and trundled up to the Bowl for a lighthearted evening under the stars.
Now it’s worth noting that the movie sends a lot of messages that are, to 2018 eyes, pretty backwards. This screening was part of the film’s 40th anniversary, and parts of it have clearly not held up well. I’m not suggesting that anyone toss their personal values out the window and go on Extreme Makeover – Grease Edition to get the guy. That said, I loved this movie as a kid, probably because watching the world’s oldest-looking teenagers tackle high school was a lot more pleasant than experiencing the real thing.
The music is fun and by and large easy to sing, lending itself perfectly to the evening. The crowd at this type of event is obviously self-selected, and we all belted out the tunes at varying levels of atonality. People came dressed for the evening. There were legions of Pink Ladies — both male and female — plus a handful of T-Birds and some pretty epic beauty school dropouts. Audience members dressed as Sandy (in either form) were few and far between, making it clear who the audience would be cheering on.
But first, the show started with a set by Sha Na Na, the band that performed during the dance contest segment of the film. They seem to have embraced their role as a retro act with great gusto, wearing over-the-top bowling shirts and telling goofy dad jokes. They warmed up the audience with a set of up-tempo 50s and early 60s hits, encouraging singing to songs like “A Teenager in Love” and closing with “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.” If you like to see old dudes rocking into retirement — and I do — this fit the bill perfectly.
Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the movie, hosted the evening. From the first, she answered one of my long-standing questions about the film. Yes, she really does talk like that. In fact, her entire patter seemed exactly like what you would expect of an adult Frenchy, leaving you to wonder where the character ended and the real person began. In addition to introducing openers Sha Na Na, she told charming stories about the Grease shoot and its aftermath.
Before the screening began, she also gave instructions to the audience about what to do with the little pink goody bags on every seat. Yes, this was a Rocky Horror Picture Show type of event, with actions and taglines for the audience to call out in response to specific scenes or characters. We all received pompoms to wave during cheerleading scenes, combs to use for dramatic greaser hair scenes, bubbles to blow during “Beauty School Dropout,” and a yellow flag to wave during the drag race. While it was easy to be distracted and forget some of the instructions since we were also singing along, everyone around me seemed to be embracing the assigned tasks and waving their props enthusiastically. The film had also been modified to add cute karaoke-style lyrics on the screen, “helpfully” bleeping out the naughty parts with cute emojis.
While the evening was fun and left me feeling happy, there are two caveats. First, unlike other movie screenings I’ve seen at the Bowl, none of the music that accompanied the film was live. It had a totally different vibe than, say, watching the LA Phil performing a John Williams score in person. Second, this type of event isn’t a great way to see a movie for the first time. The audience was loud enough that I’m sure it would have been hard to follow if I hadn’t already known what was happening — particularly in regard to some key plot points at the beginning.
That said, if you like the movies on offer, you’ll love the summer sing along events. The cute outfits, costume contests, and singing created a warm camaraderie, with audience members chatting with strangers and generally seeming to be having a grand old time. “We’ll always be together,” indeed.
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