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Rise of the Pink Ladies Tell Us More, Tell Us More

Apr 6, 2023


Cheyenne Isabel Wells beams with enthusiasm when chatting up Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, which hits Paramount+ April 6. In fact, she feels the show arrives at the perfect time, offering a rare opportunity to expand the Grease universe and viewers’ perceptions of what really went down in the mid-1950s, when the show takes place.

“There are stories we didn’t get to see in the original Grease movie,” shared Wells. “There are a lot of people who existed during that time who weren’t portrayed in the film. And a lot more drama, so we can get a little bit more personalized in Pink Ladies because it’s a series. It’s not just two-hours of time. We see a lot more inside these unique characters and for me, that’s really exciting.”

Paramount+ hopes it will be for streaming audiences, too. It’s a big gamble taking on an established brand, something many people have strong feelings about. Grease was a colossal success when it was released in 1978, making stars out of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. And then… Grease 2 was a disaster, even with Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead and a stronger focus on the Pink Ladies. Can the new show create Greased Lighting all over again?

The cast and crew think so. Marisa Davila, Cheyenne Isabel Wells, Ari Notartomaso, executive music producer/songwriter Justin Tranter, and choreographer/director Jamal Sims share more with MovieWeb below. But first, take a look at the exclusive clip from an upcoming episode

The Lowdown on Pink Ladies

The ensemble cast stands out in Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. Davila stars as Jane, a less prudish Sandy. Wells is Olivia, a romantic with smarts who’s been labeled a ‘slut.’ Notartomaso is Cynthia — tres tomboy, recalling some iterations of the stage revival of Grease. And Fukuhara is Nancy, a fashion-forward gal who’s thoroughly her own creature. One suspects Shanel Bailey, who plays timid Hazel in the series, may enter the quartet at some point. Newcomer Madison Thompson, Johnathan Nieves, Jason Schmidt, and Maxwell Whittington-Cooper costar. Jackie Hoffman (Only Murders in the Building) morphs into Assistant Principal McGee. The late Eve Arden originated the role in the classic first film.

This time around, it’s 1954 at our beloved Rydell High, four years before Grease took place. Outcasts at their wit’s end (Jane, Olivia, Cynthia, and Nancy), boldly decide to live life on their own terms and in doing so, cause an uproar with Rydell’s conservative staff and students.

Related: Exclusive: Grease is Still the World for the Stars of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies

“My biggest hope was to pay respects to the joy and excitement of the original thing that we all love,” said producer/songwriter Justin Tranter. “But to also make sure it does what the original Grease did, which was very much a late ’70s take on the ’50s. And use the ’50s as a great example of young people creating moral panic. I also wanted to bring songs that had excitement and some ‘danger,’ and represented the sexiness and riskiness of teenagers doing things that older people didn’t think they should be doing.”

Paramount+

Here’s to that. There’s plenty of riskiness to go around. The show takes on the rampant sexism and racism that befell the 1950s, but saves plenty of time for romance and bad choices. Enter: Olivia (played by Wells). She falls for somebody she really shouldn’t. Like — for real. Then there’s Cynthia, delivered with equal measures of grace and grit by Notartomaso, who explores her own vitality and sexuality. Not to be left out, Jane, one of the center points of the show, bucks up against the Rydell High system during a time when females were meant to “stay in their place.”

“Truthfully, it was just as overwhelming for me coming onto this series as it was for Jane to come back to school,” shared Davila. “All that nervousness mixed with excitement when she was right outside those double school doors coming back to school [in fall] was exactly how I felt and what I bought to the project.”

Cheyenne Isabel Wells on Olivia

Paramount+

By all accounts, the character of Olivia bares the closest resemblance to the character of Rizzo in the original film, however the writers make her distinctly original. Here, we find a strong female character who’s not afraid of her power, but who is very much still a teenager, occasionally making wrong choices.

“I fell in love with Olivia right away when I read her character description, and I think this is the best time for the show to come out because we’re already behind,” said Wells. “These are messages and stories we should have been telling a long time ago. But we’re also in a musical revolution right now. There are shows like ours spearheading that movement. So, if we can combine some serious topics on top of song and dance, I mean, I think that’s the best combo.”

Related: Grease: Is Danny Worthy Of Sandy’s Forgiveness?

Speaking of, those song-and-dance numbers are great eye candy. They fall somewhere between an amped-up Glee by way of one of Riverdale’s more robust stand-alone music episodes with dashes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

“The challenge of those musical numbers came from juggling the dancing with doing scenes that day,” admitted Wells. “We’d get sent videos of the choreography and have a rehearsal. You’d have to familiarize yourself with the video so that by the time you’re on set, it can play off to the side. I think the speed of it all was like the most challenging.”

Pink Is the Word

Paramount+

Annabel Oakes (Atypical), writes and executive produces the series and serves as its showrunner and director. Her passion fuels what viewers experience in Pink Ladies, something choreographer/director Jamal Sims says informed him on how to make everything here stand out.

“We had an original story with Pink Ladies and that helped, because we weren’t trying to recreate the original. So, it was like, ‘Okay, good. We’re telling a different story,” said Sims. “My greatest hope for this was that the joy I felt as a kid watching Grease in the theater, would translate to viewers, who, after every episode, might feel the same, and walk away singing songs, and dancing the dances.”

He added how he and cast had to be uninhibited in the show. “We had to be fearless because we were doing so many things like dancing on top of cars, on top of lockers that were turning upside down. We couldn’t be afraid. That was thing—let’s get out there, let’s be fearless. That brings the best response.”

Ari Notartomaso hailed the dance numbers and credited the writing in the new series. “Everybody loves Grease. We all grew up with that story,” she said. “And my favorite number from the original was Greased Lightning. So, to be able to pay tribute to that was special. And my character was such a huge deal for me.

“I’m really appreciative of the honesty they gave in writing something unique,” added Notartomaso. “I really think she’s a lovely, very well written character. All our characters are well written and fleshed out. I just think this show is really a lot of fun.”

Catch Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies on Paramount+ beginning April 6.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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