Tag Archives: Chicago

Theater: Grease

When it made its original run on Broadway, Grease ran for 3,388 performances - at that time, the most ever. Since then, it's had several revivals and national tours, not to mention countless community theater productions. Uploaded by forallevents.com.

Hard to imagine now, but this show was created initially with very little music. And when it debuted in Chicago, it even had a different title: Greased Lightning. Some smart people saw the show and told the creators (Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey) that it could be a hit on Broadway with a little work. I guess they were right – the show opened in New York in 1972 and ran for a then-record 3,388 performances.

Uploaded by bordertelegraph.com.

When we think of Grease today, we’re influenced by the movie version. No wonder – the play has changed during its several revivals to include plot elements and songs (“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One that I Want,” “Sandy,” and “Grease”) from the film version. It’s had Broadway revivals in 1994 and 2007, and national tours in 1994, 2003, 2008, and 2010-11. Not to mention productions at community theaters from coast to coast.

Quite a few stars have had parts on Broadway or on the national tours. Among them:

DANNY: Barry Bostwick, Treat Williams, Patrick Swayze, David Hasselhoff, Rex Smith, Jeff Conaway, Jon Secada, Richard Gere, and Ace Young.

SANDY: Andrea McArdle, Lea Salonga, and Debbie Gibson.

RIZZO: Adrienne Barbeau, Lucy Lawless, Rosie O’Donnell, Linda Blair, Debbie Boone, Sheena Easton, Jasmine Guy, Joely Fisher, Maureen McCormick, Mackenzie Phillips, Jody Watley, and Brooke Shields.

OTHERS: Tracey Ullman, Marilu Henner, Megan Mullally, Davy Jones, Chubby Checker, Jennifer Holliday, Al Jarreau, Taylor Hicks, Mickey Dolenz, Joe Piscopo, and Peter Scolari.

Writer: Carl Sandburg

Perhaps because of his strong Midwestern, especially Chicago, roots, it's not surprising that Sandburg wrote several biographies of Abraham Lincoln - one of which won a Pulitzer Prize (to go with the two he won for poetry). Uploaded by riverrunfilm.com.

California has its artists and writers, as does New York. Lots of writers are associated with the South and New England. For some reason, those born in the Midwest – the staid, stolid, hard-working Midwest – often move to a coast to practice their art. That’s one reason Carl Sandburg is celebrated, because he made his reputation in Chicago, and only moved to North Carolina to retire.

Here’s how he famously described his adopted hometown:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Uploaded by pippoetry.blogspot.com.

During his lifetime, Sandburg published 22 books of poetry in addition to a number of biographies and children’s books. It’s probably no surprise, considering his Illinois heritage, that Sandburg wrote several books about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. He won two other Pulitzers for his poetry. He said, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”

Song: “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

I wouldn't want to live where it snows all winter, but I love the one or two we get each year. Uploaded by cavanaughcarriages.com.

Okay, I have to admit that, as I write this, the first snow of the season is pouring down outside. And “it doesn’t show signs of stopping.” It’s a week before Christmas, we have a fire in the fireplace, and I hope we don’t have to go out for days.

Uploaded by grandamerica.com.

“Let It Snow!” (as we’ll call it for brevity purposes) is one of those songs, like “Winter Wonderland”, that’s not really about Christmas, but has become adopted as part of the season. In fact, its authors, the brilliant Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, are both Jewish. And like “The Christmas Song” (Great American Things, December 5, 2009), it was written in the middle of summer.

The song was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe (“Racing with the Moon”) in 1945. Although no singer’s version is the “standard”, it’s become one of the best-selling songs of all time.

Here’s a cool video – a homeowner has synched Chicago’s jazzy version to his Christmas lights:

Film: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The charmingly deceptive Ferris Bueller. Uploaded by dvdactive.com.

The charmingly deceptive Ferris Bueller. Uploaded by dvdactive.com.

You’ve got to love a film in which a character sings “Danke Schoen” in the shower. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a classic movie that definitely deserves its spot on this list, but the unexpected passing of John Hughes makes this the appropriate timing.

Matthew Broderick was so perfect for this movie. He had just the right combination of innocence and wise-ass charm that made the character believable. Well, mostly believable. No one could have quite the chutzpah he exhibited, but we enjoyed all his pranks on his incredible day.

"Danke Schoen." Uploaded by s2.causes.com.

"Danke Schoen." Uploaded by s2.causes.com.

First, he got his girlfriend Sloane out of school by having Cameron trick principal Ed Rooney into believing her grandmother had died. (“Just roll her old bones over here and I’ll dig up your daughter.”) Then he convinced a sniveling maitre d’ that he was Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago. Finally, Ferris lip synched the Beatles’ Twist and Shout aboard a float in the Von Steuben Day parade.

Probably the thing that made the movie most endearing, if that’s the right word, was that Ferris occasionally broke the rules and spoke directly to us. For example, when he explained how he feigned his illness to get out of school. “The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it… You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.”

This is the place where I’d normally talk about all the awards a movie won. Well, Ferris Bueller didn’t win any. What it won instead was a place in the pantheon of great coming-of-age stories. It’s one of those movies that, when it comes on TV, you have to watch at least till you see one of your favorite scenes. Like this one, the Twist and Shout video. Crank it up!

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