A complete guide to all the songs in ‘Grease’
Relive your high school days and go back to Rydell High, where you can hear classic musical theatre tunes that are guaranteed to bring back plenty of nostalgia.
Grease is the word once again as everyone’s favourite high schoolers hand-jive their way back into the West End. The show is currently playing at the Dominion Theatre, and it has three very special guest stars: Louise Redknapp, Peter Andre, and Jason Donovan are splitting the key roles of Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine.
Join Danny and Sandy, whose idyllic summer loving is undone by peer pressure once the pair reunite at Rydell High. Danny is one of the cool, rebellious Burger Palace Boys, while good girl Sandy proves too prim for the Pink Ladies. Can they — along with Rizzo, Kenickie, Frenchie and the rest of the Rydell gang — find a balance, and happiness?
Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s Grease has been a fan favourite ever since its 1971 Chicago premiere, but it’s gone through various incarnations over the years – particularly following the smash-hit 1978 movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, after which some of John Farrar’s songs were added to the show.
This London stage production aims to recapture some of that original, grittier intention – while still bringing you plenty of 1950s doo-wop fun and all the hit numbers you love. Learn more about these timeless hits in our song guide, and then book your Grease tickets.
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The title song – written by Barry Gibb ahead of the movie and recorded by Frankie Valli – sets the stage for this vivid musical. It unpacks that one evocative word: It’s a time, a groove, a feeling, a lifestyle. Plus there’s a hint of the misunderstood teen angst to come: “They think our love is just a growin’ pain. Why don't they understand? It’s just a cryin’ shame.”
Ah, Grease’s iconic battle-of-the-sexes number. Danny tries to act like a stud in front of the boys, and Sandy romanticises their fling for the girls. (Personally, I’ve always liked Marty’s pragmatic line of questioning: “Does he have a car?”) The musical style, with the nonsensical doo-wop backing vocals, is very much of the era: think The Crystals’ “Do Doo Ron Ron.”
“Those Magic Changes”
Doody, one of Danny’s gang, is learning to play the guitar – and he makes a magically big leap in order to perform this endearing song. It’s surprisingly poignant for a teenage boy, all about wanting to reclaim a lost love, but its combination of yearning and nostalgia is a clever note to strike in a show that’s all about looking back to another time.
“Freddy, My Love”
Sleepovers can be lethal: The drinking, smoking, and ear-piercing is too much for poor Sandy. Widening that sophistication gap – in theory, at least – is this sultry little number from Marty about her long-distance lover, a marine. Whether they’re actually together, or if she just enjoys his gifts and the fantasy of the romance, is an open question.
The song so good that John Travolta stole it for the film, this is usually Kenickie’s time to shine as he sings about how his wreck of a used car could become a dream babe-magnet machine. This 12-bar blues number is irresistible: Ignore the mishmash of car terminology, come for the leather-clad thrusting and winking innuendo. And, of course, the classic finger-pointing.
“Rydell Fight Song”
Danny and Sandy are drifting further apart at school as she joins the cheerleading squad – way too square for his gang. But might he compromise too and try out for track? This funny riff on the traditional American school fight song is deliberately cringe-worthy, but Sandy earnestly performs it.
This gentle duet between Roger (a Burger Palace Boy) and Jan (a Pink Lady) is somehow both gross and totally adorable. It riffs on different meanings of that title word: Roger has a habit of “mooning” people (i.e. dropping his trousers), but he’s also “mooning” over Jan – who shares his affections. And, to finish, there’s a reference to gazing up at the actual moon.
“Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”
More peer pressure, as Rizzo mocks Danny for wanting to be with Sandy – a girl so prim and proper she’s like that iconic movie-star ingenue, Sandra Dee. From there, it’s a whistle-stop tour of the era’s big names, like Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Annette Funicello, and Elvis, all spat out by Rizzo in this catchy but cruel ditty.
“We Go Together”
After discussing who’s asking who to the upcoming sock hop, the gang launch into this gloriously playful ensemble number – which is chock-full of doo-wop nonsense: “Shoo-wop sha whada whadda yippidy boom da boom, chang chang, changity chang shoo bop.” But under all that is the joy of being with your friends: a snapshot of giddy youth.
“Shakin’ At the High School Hop” / “It’s Raining on Prom Night”
The big dance has arrived, and we get a starkly contrasting pair of songs. Most of the gang are having a whale of a time at the hop – it’s all rock ‘n’ roll, rolling up your crazy jeans and digging the scene – while poor Sandy is at home, crying over Danny’s treatment of her in this mournful number. That’s teen romance in a nutshell — all the highs and lows.
“Born to Hand Jive”
It’s hand jive competition time in this explosive number! Vince Fontaine, a DJ on the local radio, is the judge (he’s a presence throughout the show, and this is his big moment). An eventful contest sees Kenickie and Rizzo dancing off against Danny and Cha-Cha DiGregorio, a girl from another school and a sizzling-hot mover.
“Hopelessly Devoted to You”
Back to poor Sandy, who pours out her heart in Farrar’s almighty ballad – added to the stage show after Olivia Newton-John made it such a memorable moment in the movie (it was also Oscar-nominated). Musically, it’s relatively simple, leaving plenty of space for the pure emotion to come blazing through.
“Beauty School Dropout”
This is a deliciously silly song (with very witty lyrics) in which Frenchie – who has quit high school for beauty school, but is failing out – imagines the appearance of her own personal Teen Angel to guide her. It’s a riff on those cheesy Debbie Reynolds movies which feature guardian angels, and the song encourages outlandish, dreamlike staging.
After their date at the drive-in does not go well – Danny pressures Sandy to go further than she wants to – Danny voices his frustration, fear of being embarrassed in front of his friends, and his real feelings for her. Thankfully, the latter eventually wins out, otherwise this self-pitying ballad would grate.
“Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Queen”
Doody, Roger, and the rest of the gang join forces for this chirpy pop number. It’s not essential to the plot, but it fits with the general teen themes of dating, parties, parents, and music.
“There Are Worse Things I Could Do”
By far the most dramatic and moody song in the show, this is Rizzo’s chance to have her say. She’s judged by others for being “trashy and no good,” and she’s now having a pregnancy scare – but is that really worse than being a tease or a coward? She hurls the words “I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I can feel and I can cry — a fact I’ll bet you never knew” at Sandy, but also at the audience; we’ve judged her, too.
“Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)”
Following Rizzo’s wake-up call, Sandy decides to make a change: No one will laugh at her anymore, and she won’t confine herself to some idea of being virginal and “good.” If “bad girl” Rizzo can have layers, so can she.
“You’re the One That I Want”
Meet the new Sandy! She’s transformed herself into Danny’s fantasy girl, showing that if he can move in her direction, she can definitely repay the favour. Farrar’s jaunty, up-tempo song (another addition from the movie) was a gigantic hit when it was released commercially, topping both the U.S. and U.K. singles charts, and it definitely gets audiences up on their feet in the theatre.
“We Go Together (Reprise)”
The show ends on a joyful note with the gang once again joining forces for this doo-wop mega-medley. It’s slightly bittersweet – will they really stay together after school ends? – but they’ll always be the Rydell kids within the bubble of Grease, which is why we love returning to it again and again. That’s the way it should be!
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