How the cancellation of joint-school production Grease in Perth made headlines in New York
It’s the local story that sent shockwaves through the WA community - and now it’s made headlines all the way across the world in Manhattan.
The New York Post has sensationally reported how teenagers and the musical Grease don’t mix after two Perth schools cancelled their co-production of the show over claims of “offensive, sexist and anti-feminist” themes.
Year 7-10 students from Scotch College and Presbyterian Ladies‘ College were due to perform the iconic musical next year but decided against it.
A number of Presbyterian Ladies’ College students believed the play inappropriate for modern times, feeling the musical was sexist, offensive and anti-feminist.
In a tongue-in-cheek introduction to its story, the NY Post said: “What are two things that don’t go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong?
“Teenagers and Grease, according to two school administrations in Australia who have nixed the ’70s-made, ’50s-themed musical.”
The students were particularly concerned about some of the lyrics in the show’s songs.
In particular from the tune Summer Nights and the line, “Did she put a fight”, which has been criticised for being out of step with the #MeToo era.
But not everyone was onboard with the move.
Arts Minister David Templeman criticised the decision as “over the top”.
He said Grease was a “much-loved” musical that had been written in the 1970s and set in the 1950s, so it reflected the different attitudes of those times.
He said the decision to cancel the joint-school production was “a bit sad”.
“It’s a show of the time and I don’t think we should cancel those sorts of things,” Mr Templeman told The West Live.
“To cancel a show totally I think is a bit over the top. We need to be careful we don’t sanitise history.”
At the time of announcing the cancellation of the production, PLC principal Cate Begbie and acting Scotch College headmaster Peter Burt issued a brief joint statement about the decision.
“A number of PLC students raised concerns whether the musical was appropriate in modern times,” it read.
“Scotch College listened respectfully to the girls’ concerns and both schools agreed a different musical would be better suited for their joint production in 2022.”
Grease first launched in 1971 as a stage production about a pair of star-crossed high school students who meet and fall in love during their summer holiday and are surprisingly reunited at school - but have to overcome their disparate cliques.
Olivia Newton-John, who played Sandy Olsson in the classic 1978 movie alongside John Travolta as love interest Danny Zuko, hit back last year at claims the musical was sexist.
“It’s a story from the ‘50s, where things were different,” she said.
“Everyone forgets that, at the end he changes for her, too. There’s nothing deep in there about the #MeToo movement.
“It’s a movie and it’s a fun story and I have never taken that too seriously.”
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