Queer Twists: Sapphic Storylines In “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies”

Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies season 1 poster.

Discover the new era of Grease with “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies,” a refreshing prequel series that takes you back to the 1950s. Follow the story of four marginalized friends who challenge the social norms of their school and uncover an intriguing sapphic twist in this bold adaptation of the beloved franchise. Don’t miss the chance to meet the Pink Ladies and enjoy a unique experience in this iconic universe!

The New Era Of Grease

“Grease,” the 1978 musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, has captured audiences' hearts for decades with its retro vibe, catchy tunes, and relatable teen characters. Despite some struggles with its sequel, the franchise is now set to be revived with a new prequel series, “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies.” Fans of the original movie are eagerly anticipating its release, but bringing this iconic story to the small screen is no small feat. Showrunner Annabel Oakes and her team have taken up the daunting task of adapting this beloved classic for television.

What's The Story Is All About?

The four unlikely friends of season 1.

“Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies” is set to be a refreshing take on the beloved franchise. Set in the 1950s, a time before rock ‘n’ roll ruled and before the T-Birds were the coolest dudes in school, the show recounts the story of four marginalized friends on the social outskirts, led by Jane, a new student who became a pariah when her boyfriend spread lies about her. To reclaim her reputation, Jane decides to run for class president. As her campaign gathers steam, she inspires other outliers like Nancy, the visionary; Cynthia, who longs to join the T-Birds; and Olivia, a young Latina who was shunned the previous year, to take a stand. These four fed up outcasts dare defy the norms and create a moral panic at Rydell High School that changes it forever.

A Sapphic Plot Twist

Queer characters Cynthia and Lydia, portrayed by Niamh Wilson, kissing in season 1.

Cynthia is initially depicted as a tomboy with a penchant for joining the T-Birds. However, her plans take a drastic turn when the Pink Ladies’ shenanigans land her in hot water with Assistant Principal McGee. Despite Cynthia’s lack of interest in theatre, McGee enrolls her in the drama club where she meets Lydia. Initially, their relationship is marked by tension due to their divergent personalities, leading to animosity between them. However, the show’s writers have decided to spice things up by introducing a love story between Cynthia and Lydia, making for an intriguing sapphic plot twist in upcoming episodes.

Gender Nonconformity And Queer Storytelling: Ari Notartomaso On Cynthia

Gender nonconforming nonbinary trans actor Ari Notartomaso.

Although some objections may arise about portraying the tomboy character as a lesbian because people may perceive it as stereotypical. However, it’s worth noting that the writers of the series crafted Cynthia long before any revelation of her sexuality. Ari Notartomaso, the actor who plays Cynthia and identifies as a gender nonconforming nonbinary trans person, believes that Cynthia is also gender nonconforming and nonbinary.

“Queerness, gender nonconformity, and transness throughout time haven't always been exactly the same,” Notartomaso told UPI. “All of us are a product of the culture that we live in, but it is really special to be able to tell that story of what it may have been like in the 1950s.”

And it doesn’t matter to them whether Cynthia is perceived as a lesbian tomboy or a cliché.

“As a young person, I didn’t really have much access to people in the media. It was something…,” said Notartomaso in an interview with ComicBook. “I grew up watching ‘Orange is the New Black,’ which is not the most age-appropriate material for young people to be watching.

“But there is something really beautiful about being able to play a character that is in an age-appropriate musical. It’s for kids of all ages, well, not all ages, but 14 and up. To be able to be a part of this story, it’s really special. There’s something that’s so healing about it for me as a person, and I really hope that it resonates with young people.”

Queer actress Niamh Wilson As Lydia

Queer actress Niamh Wilson also infuses an undeniable authenticity that breathes life into the multifaceted character of Lydia. Through her captivating performance, she elevates the sapphic plot with Cynthia, adding depth and nuance to their dynamic. Niamh's portrayal of Lydia also contributes to the broader cause of LGBTQ+ representation on screen.

Meet The Ladies

Jane, Olivia, Cynthia, and Nancy wearing the Pink Lady Jacket in season 1.

The girl gang will be portrayed by:

  • Marisa Davila (I Am Not Okay With This, Atypical) as Jane
  • Cheyenne Isabel Wells (The Late Late Show With James Corden) as Olivia
  • trans actor Ari Notartomaso (Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin) as gender non-conforming student Cynthia
  • Tricia Fukuhara (Queenpins) as Nancy

Meet The Full Cast

Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies other cast members.

Jackie Hoffman, best known for her roles in "Shiva Baby," "Only Murders in the Building,” and “Glass Onion,” has been cast as Assistant Principal McGee. Hoffman will step into the shoes of Eve Arden, who played the role in the two previous "Grease" versions.

Joining Hoffman in the cast will be a talented ensemble of actors, including:

  • Shanel Bailey (The Good Fight) as the new girl Hazel
  • Madison Thompson (Ozark) as Susan
  • Johnathan Nieves (Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels) as Richie
  • Jason Schmidt (FBI: Most Wanted) as Buddy
  • Maxwell Whittington-Cooper (When They See Us) as Wally
  • Chris McNally (When Calls The Heart) as Leonard Daniels
  • Charlotte Kavanagh (Riverdale) as Rosemary
  • Josette Halpert (Ghostwriter) as Dot
  • Nicholas McDonough (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin) as Gil
  • Maximo Salas (Stranger Things) as Shy Guy
  • Alexis Sides (Alvin) as Potato
  • Kallie Hu (Motherland: Fort Salem) as Peg
  • Victor Lau (Joy Ride) as Floyd
  • queer actress Niamh Wilson (Degrassi: The Next Generation) as Lydia

A Talented And Experienced Crew

Renowned directors directed the original series. Alethea Jones (Queen America), Jennifer Morrison (Euphoria), Annabel Oakes (Atypical), Marie Jamora (Queen Sugar), and Diego Velasco (Orange Is The New Black), among others, bring their unique expertise to the project. In addition, the series benefits from a highly skilled writers’ room, including Alison Levering (One Day at a Time), Annabel Oakes (Atypical), Laura Pollak (Fairfax), Kayla Richardson (The Beez & The Chickadeez), Raul Martin Romero (Colin in Black & White), and Auriel Rudnick (On My Block), whose contributions have helped create a captivating story.

Watch The Trailer

The brief trailer for “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies” instantly transports us back to the 50s. We meet the Pink Ladies, each with their unique personality.

Release Date & Where To Watch

Paramount+ is bringing the classic movie “Grease” to life with its original exclusive prequel series “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies” starting from April 6, 2023. The highly anticipated series premieres with the first two episodes on launch day, immersing you in the world of Rydell High and the iconic Pink Ladies.

Following the premiere, one episode will be released every week, culminating in the season finale on June 1. With ten episodes in total, the series promises to be an unforgettable ride filled with romance, friendships, and show-stopping musical sequences.

Unfortunately, the show is no longer available on Paramount+. However, you can still enjoy the series on Prime Video at primevideo.com/detail/Grease-Rise-of-the-Pink-Ladies.

Review Of “Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies”

Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies dancing.

“Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies” tackles an array of social issues such as racism, gender nonconformity, stereotypes, sexuality, and female empowerment through its episodes. While the stunning musical performances are a highlight of the show, the story lacks focus due to covering too many themes. This can be disappointing, considering the series’ potential.

However, the show’s highlights revolve around the four female protagonists learning to assert themselves in a world that rejects them. Particularly successful are the musical numbers at the slumber party and the restaurant, which strengthen the bonds between the characters while paying homage to the original cult hits.

If the show can focus more on this dynamic, it has the potential to be a genuinely compelling series. Even with its current flaws, the show still offers plenty of colorful scenarios and engaging performances, making it a strong contender to break the curse of unsuccessful musical adaptations on television.

Will There Be A Season 2?

Despite initial anticipation, there has been an official announcement confirming the cancellation of "Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies" after its first season. The show's continuation was initially dependent on the popularity and success of the debut season. The hope was that strong viewership numbers and positive critical feedback would cement the show's status as a hit, potentially leading to additional seasons. But, unfortunately, the Pink Ladies will not be returning for another season.

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Wednesday, 28 February 2024