Artistic director, Nikolai Foster, on staging the coming-of-age tale in Dubai
Following a sold-out run at the UK’s Curve Theatre, much-loved musical Grease is coming to Dubai, and the show’s artistic director Nikolai Foster tells Time Out that the city can expect a “Grease like you’ve never seen before”.
You’ve probably seen the 1978 John Travolta and Olivia Newton John film – it’s the highest-grossing musical of all time – but if that’s all you’ve seen, then you haven’t really seen Grease. The big-screen outing is a little sanitised compared to the original musical, and the version coming to Dubai brings back some of the spirit of the 1971 stage debut.
“We at Grease stick to the source material and go back to basics,” Foster explains. “When this piece was originally written, the authors of the play were documenting their time at school and the characters became iconic through their writing.”
The show was originally the brainchild of an advertising copywriter, Jim Jacobs, and a high school art teacher, Warren Casey, who met at an amateur theatre group in Chicago and wrote a musical inspired by their teenage years.
By now, you probably know the plot. After a summer romance, leather-clad greaser Danny and girl-next-door Sandy are unexpectedly reunited when she transfers to Rydell High for senior year. But can they survive the trials and tribulations of teenage life, and find true love once more? “What makes Grease unique is that when it was written, it was about the experiences of growing up in Chicago in the 1950s-1960s, because adolescents in America during that period conceived the ‘teenager’ as we know it today,” says Foster.
After The Second World War, young people started to have more disposable income as the economy stabilised. They had part-time jobs and their parents were able to give them pocket money. They were able to drive, buy records and clothes, and start to define their own culture, contributing to the rock ’n’ roll musical revolution.
“That’s what makes Grease extra-special – it’s documenting such an important part of history.”
Despite the period-specific nature of the musical, its longevity is down to more than just the songs, although you’ve probably got one stuck in your head. Foster points out that the coming-of-age theme is universal and enduring.
“They are characters we all know through our time at school or college,” Foster says. “You’ve got a handsome cool guy like Danny Zuko and a girl like Rizzo who has a lot of attitude. And there’s Frenchy who had ambitions of going off to beauty school that didn’t really work out for her. So, you’ve got all those archetypes who we all recognise through our own experience.”
Ultimately, that modest show about gangs of disaffected kids in the industrial midwest became the most successful attempt to put delinquency on the Broadway stage since West Side Story. From Friday April 7 to Thursday 13 in Dubai, you can experience one of the great pop-culture musicals in its purest form. From Dhs150. April 7-13, times vary. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.greasethemusical.ae.