Jim Jacobs Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jim Jacobs 1942– Warren Casey 1942(?)–

American playwrights and composers. Jacobs and Casey are the creators of Grease, the rock'n'roll musical which parodies the fifties while rendering it timeless. One of Broadway's most popular plays, its success stems primarily from its authentic depiction of high school kids interacting naturally without adult interference. It is based on the standard boy-meets-girl theme, such as in the clichéd teen romance movies of Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, but the several original twists it applies to this theme give it a lively and unhackneyed approach. The emphasis of Grease is on the camaraderie of young people, and it subtly comments on group acceptance and psychology. However, it avoids any direct references to the era's serious events and resolves any problems that its characters have by the end of the play. Grease presents the fifties as a decade of fun and good times, and it is considered responsible, along with George Lucas's film American Graffiti, for spawning the nostalgia trend of the early 1970s. Both of its authors grew up during the fifties, and recall and recapture it without sentimentality. Jacobs is an actor, writer, and musician who used his own experiences as a high school greaser as the basis for much of the play's plot and dialogue. Casey is a songwriter and actor whose theatre company, The Kingston Mines, staged the original production of Grease in Chicago. Their lyrics and dialogue are clever and full of double entendres, sexual raunchiness, and many fifties' allusions. Their songs reflect both teenage trauma and celebration, and are done tongue-in-cheek in the styles of performers such as Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, and the Teen Queens. Grease has been criticized for an overall lack of seriousness, unmemorable musical material, and for what some critics feel is a thin storyline. It is generally considered, however, to have successfully merged rock and musical theater much in the manner of Hair and Godspell. Designed purely for entertainment, its youthful high spirits and universal good humor keep it fresh and enjoyable for contemporary young people.