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Pink Ladies join the word Grease

Once again, “Grease is the word”—or one of them—with a 10 part-series covering the Rise of the Pink Ladies, those jacketed rebel girls from the stage play and 1978 movie. But with decades going beyond the hair goo phenom that infused the original tribute to 1950s styles and music, this prequel adds such words as sexism, racism, and bullying to the mix, along with updated approaches to moves, dance, dialogue, and vocals. The result suits advances made by Glee and Hairspray, homing in on the always-present appeal of high school stories that celebrate outcasts. Creator Annabel Oakes maintains familiar names like Rydell High School, the T-Birds gang, school administrator McGee, and that song written for the movie and originally sung by Frankie Valli, “Grease.” Set in 1954 a full class load before the screen’s combo came on campus, Rise of the Pink Ladies brings in a lesser-known cast who, like John Travolta back in 1978, wear a few more years than high school students able to graduate with the rest of their class. The television on Paramount+ presentation proves more forgiving than the big screen release back when 34-year-old Stockard Channing played lead Pink Lady Rizzo. But as decades of popularity and nostalgia proved, few viewers really care about the stars’ ages. Can they sing? Can they dance? Can they act? Yes on all counts for a group that includes Marisa Davila, Cheyenne Isabel Wells, Ari Notartamaso, Tricia Fukuhara, and Shanel Bailey. With an LGBT element and a mix of ethnic backgrounds, Rise of the Pink Ladies connects with a diverse audience, and its romantic elements emphasize that high school girls should serve as more than arm candy. Importantly for a musical, tunes prove catchy and routines innovative rather than stagey. Special effects let characters dance to life from a stuffy old portrait for a song called “In the Club,” or float up in the stars with a dreamy piece called “Gemini Moon.” Once again, Grease is the word—for nostalgia, music, and lightweight fun.

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