Theatre Review: “Greasy” Triumphs at the Fringe Festival
Sexy, Touching and Queer, Glam Gam “Flips ‘Grease’ On Its Head”
“We focus on female pleasure and gender issues generally,” said actress Phoenix Wood about Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story. “It’s also something that questions the patriarchy at every turn and points out and exposes parts of normal society and culture that people don’t question as misogynistic or sexist.”
The Montreal Fringe Festival is in full swing; the Fringe park on St-Laurent Blvd. and Rachel St. E. has has been set up, with refreshments and beer taps at the ready. This year, Glam Gam productions takes their usual place as one of the first shows at the festival, performing once again at Café Cléopâtre, with their newest play. Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story opened on May 30, and will run until June 16.
Featuring two female leads, the parody of the 1978 musical Grease is an example of gender diversity⎯the play features characters who express their gender in different ways, creating a space where some underrepresented women are seen and heard on stage.
Greasy is set forty years after Grease, in Montreal’s Gay village. There are some comedic references to the city made throughout the play which make it relatable to its residents.
“What happened to the Dani I met at Igloofest?,” exclaimed Winter Valentine, Sandy’s homologue, after an unfortunate encounter between her and Dani Foucault at the beginning of school.
The company Glam Gam is recognized for numerous theatrical elements, which were included in Greasy. Their plays involve burlesque, singing and dancing, and are comedic. They have a large cast of talented actresses and actors with great line delivery and timing. Their costumes and sets are large, bold and brightly coloured.
“We wanted to take the stereotypical Grease and its misogyny and flip it on its head, and make it accessible for queers and lesbians. We wanted to highlight a different type of love story,” explained Sherri Levesque, one of two directors and head script writer.
The play does follow the plot of the original film very closely. However, some changes are subtly made on stage. For example, when Winter Valentine, homologue to Sandy, is getting ready for a party, she tries her iconic black bodycon suit, and decidedly changes out of it- the bad girl outfit does not make the cut in this version.
As well, some songs from the original production were rewritten for Greasy to make it work in this new context, but they also incorporate pop songs for the audience. Radiohead’s “Creep” provides the perfect context and lyrics for Rummy to have a touching meltdown, and a sexy striptease number to Kelis’ “Milkshake” earns a lot of cheers.
“I think it’s always empowering to give women the choice whether how far to reveal their bodies and how sexual they’re allowed to be in public spaces,” stated Phoenix Wood, who plays Dani Foucault.
The entertainment of Greasy translated to the public, who cheered, shouted, laughed and sang. The fourth wall was broken as the performers, throughout the show, would address members of the audience, or brush past them while staying in character.
The playfulness of Greasy made it easy for people to get comfortable. The show is sexy and empowering, in a fun way. We see thongs and pasties; it’s light, playful, the audience is in on the fun.
“It was nice to see people get so inspired after the show,” said Wood. “And, kinda let loose and be visible and out, in a safe space.”
Greasy deals with themes that are very close to home for many of the LGBTQ+ community. All of the characters are at least implicitly queer and most, if not all of them, struggle with some sort of internalized shame or homophobia.
Internalized homophobia, for example, manifests itself in various ways throughout the play. Certain characters take their anger out on others, while some keep it deep inside and have difficulty expressing their true selves. Another character learns to accept her lesbian identity. Throughout the play, the audience is led through an intimate journey of self-acceptance.
The internalized homophobia experienced by some characters in the play comes from the societal pressures to conform to heterosexual norms. Its effects make it such that regardless of how comfortable people feel with their identity, the feeling that they are doing something wrong, that they ARE wrong will still creep in.
Several of the women characters in the original film also dealt with internalized misogyny. While Grease did not address or challenge it, Greasy does. The play strongly links these two forms of internalized hatred together, representing the experience of most, if not all queer women, experience.
“For me the play is about women being visible,” explained Wood, “and women loving women being visible, and when I say women, I’m including gender non-conforming people and butches and femmes.”
References to LGBTQ+ culture are made throughout the show, which reminds the audience that Glam Gam productions is reaching out directly to LGBTQ+ individuals, who are reaching right back.
For example, at one point a character says the phrase “But I’m a Cheerleader!”, which is the title of a popular lesbian film from 1999.
Greasy also boasts a scene in which the drag queen characters “vogue”, a call back to the style of dancing created in the New York City drag balls of the 1980s.
It’s up to the viewer as to how they would like to experience the show. You can watch the play at a surface level and enjoy the bright colours and the fun music, but there is always more to chew on if they wish dig deeper.
Greasy will make you laugh until you cry, and make you feel all kind of ways. Glam Gam production has once again contributed a very fun and special production to the Montreal Fringe Festival.
Tickets are available at the Fringe park or at the door for the next showing. To buy tickets online, visit https://montrealfringe.ca/organizer/greasy-a-lesbian-love-story/.