Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. As shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom. No, you haven’t spontaneously developed a case of dyslexia — I just have a song stuck in my head.

From February 8–10, Trinity College Dramatic Society (TCDS) presented Grease the Musical: the everybody-knows-it show about a group of rowdy teenagers in 1950s Chicago as they navigate high school — and each other. Directed by Luis Sanchez and staged at the Hart House Theatre, this production brought the classic musical to U of T with the goal of tapping out the essence of the play as a raunchy parody of 1950s Americana. 

The musical follows Danny Zuko (Joseph Chiu), a member of the T-Birds gang, and Sandra Dee (Serena Barr), the sweet new girl at school, as they are reunited after a summer fling and face the dramatic dynamics between their friend groups. These friends make up much of the rich cast of supporting characters like Kenickie (Benjamin Rosenberg), the unforgettable chain-smoking owner of the coveted car Greased Lightnin’; the coleslaw-craving Jan (Kiara Accurso); and the insatiable Sonny (Spencer Pearson). 

Uniquely for a student-run play, Grease had hired its own marketing team. The play had a media photoshoot and was even performed on a separate night just for the press, “which no one has ever done,” said Sanchez, in an interview with The Varsity. “Just a lot of bigger things that required us to [step out] of our usual purview.” 

The license to put on Grease is difficult to acquire. Between that, the size of the venue, and all the elaborate props and accessories that went along with staging the show, “to make our money back, we had to really focus on marketing,” said Sanchez. This comes as no shock to anyone who’s been to U of T for the past few months. Flashy posters for the musical covered pretty much every wall and corkboard on campus. Sanchez mentioned the Friday night show sold out, and other days came close. 

We’re more than half a century removed from the era of Grease, and there’s something charming and nostalgic about the show, with its outlandish concepts and characters; as Sanchez said, “Everyone in this play is kind of an asshole.” This was a particularly fitting remark, as viewers were exposed to a whole lot of ass and underwear. 

“What people don’t realize is [this is] a parody,” said Sanchez. The trope of the time was that stories ended with the good girl taming the beastly, chauvinistic bad boy — a cultural evolution of the Beauty and the Beast archetypal story. “But in [Grease], it’s the opposite.”

I must emphasize the general cohesion and chemistry between the entire cast and ensemble that worked as a truly well-greased machine. Larger scenes, such as those featuring the entire Pink Ladies clique with their fast-paced dialogue and shrill shrieks, felt natural and without exaggeration. Still, I do wish that the Ladies’ mics were calibrated better, as it was difficult to make out exactly what they were saying with such fervour.

Jessica Wang as the adorable Frenchy and Shunsho Ando Heng as Doody were easily the best romantic duo — beyond their limited verbal interactions, the players’ silent background interactions and physical work with each other brought authenticity to their on-stage relationship. 

This leads to what was perhaps the most devastating aspect of an otherwise wonderful production: I could not believe that Sandra or Danny wanted anything to do with each other. While a great deal of the play rests on the fact the two are somewhat ashamed of their relationship, and Danny particularly wishes to shun Sandra in front of his friends, it still seems that they might’ve been lying when they sang “We Go Together” — and no amount of hair gel can fix that. 

While Barr and Chiu shone on their own and embodied their roles within the ensemble, it was particularly heartbreaking to see how artificially they appeared in front of each other during scenes that focused on them as a pair. I could not believe that Danny was devastated about being “Alone at a Drive-in Movie,” despite Chiu’s powerful vocal performance. 

I could not get enough of Rosenberg, however, who felt like he was plucked straight out of a 1950s Greaser gang with his shivers and mouthy accent. Roger (James Goldman) and Sonny left us feeling like we all needed to go to confession. I do not think there was a scene more sincere and well-acted than Rizzo and Marty’s secret-sharing moment, played by Deslyn Bach and Kylee Martinez, respectively. 

The vocal performances all around were nothing less than lovely. I cannot express the masterfulness of the doo-wop “Beauty School Dropout” we got from Hunter Gowan’s portrayal of the Teen Angel. And it would be wrong not to address the brilliance of the lighting, set, and other visual design that gave the musical its very own identity and seamlessly shifted the stage from the school gym to the garage to a back alley rumble.

In conclusion, I need to buy some pomade. And maybe I should finally get my driver’s license.