GREASE: RISE OF THE PINK LADIES -- The Iconic Musical of Stage and Screen Gets the RIVERDALE Treatment
Review by Sean Boelman
Attempts to capitalize on the popularity of Grease in the past have not been particularly successful, with the film’s sequel and the live musical version on television having both been largely maligned. The new spin-off/prequel Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies hopes to cash in on nostalgia, and is surprisingly successful at doing so.
Set five years before the events of Grease, Rise of the Pink Ladies tells the story of the origin of the girl gang from the iconic musical. At least in the first five episodes, the show seems content with being mostly its own thing. Although there are plenty of callbacks — especially with some of the musical riffs and an opening musical number that modernized the eponymous song — it’s pretty independent.
The biggest issue with the show is that it’s not really Grease. However, once you get past the expectations of it channeling the vibes of the classic musical, it becomes something enjoyable in its own right. It’s best to think of Rise of the Pink Ladies as a Riverdale-type show that shares the same settings but has a different tone.
However, over the course of the five episodes, it’s easy to get absorbed into the high school drama of these characters. The show takes a bit of time to find its rhythm, but that’s because there are so many characters and subplots that must be set up. Eventually, it becomes enjoyable in a trashy, soapy way that is extremely watchable.
As one would expect, what we get here is a much edgier take on high school drama. Although Grease was certainly filled with innuendos, Rise of the Pink Ladies takes it much further, with one subplot even involving a relationship between a student and a teacher. Although some of the show’s commentary feels genuinely insightful, other parts feel like they are being edgy just for the sake of it.
The part of this series that is likely to be most divisive is its music. First off, the songs are nowhere near as good as “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Beauty School Dropout,” and the rest of the iconic soundtrack of the musical and film. Still, the way in which the show mixes the vibe of the original soundtrack with more modern musical influences — like hip-hop — is consistently fun and often catchy.
There is also no denying the impressiveness of the choreography and production design of the show. They pulled out all of the stops on this one, with some intricate and creative musical numbers that are unreal for what has been done for a streaming show. Honestly, it’s shocking to see such impressive and ambitious form in what is otherwise a somewhat trite teen drama.
It would be easy to be cynical and hate on Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, but it’s pretty fun for what it is. If you’re willing to accept that this is a trashy teen soap with some catchy songs and not up to the caliber of the original, it’s a pretty good time.
Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies streams on Paramount+ beginning April 6. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.