The world of classic romantic musical comedy Grease, which was inspired in part by a Philadelphia-area high school, is heading to the small screen more than 40 years after the movie’s debut.
Musical series Grease: Rydell High will hit the forthcoming streaming service HBO Max when it launches next year, the company announced this week. Details are scant, but the show “reimagines” the original with “big musical numbers from the period combined with new original songs.”
“This is high school and life in small-town USA told on the scale of a big rock’n’roll musical,” HBO Max head of original content Sarah Aubrey said. “It’s Grease 2.0 but with the same spirit, energy, and excitement.”
Released in June 1978, Grease tells the story of Rydell High seniors Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) as the pair falls in love in the 1950s. The flick is based on an earlier musical, and features classic tracks like “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.”
Grease takes place in and around Rydell High, which was based in part on Radnor High School in Delaware County, as director Randal Kleiser told the Inquirer in 1998. A 1964 Radnor alum, Kleiser claimed that “a lot of the stuff we put in Grease is sort of based” on the school.
“I ran the low hurdle, and I put that in where Danny Zuko is running the hurdle and tripped. That happened to me — I was in a race and tripped,” Kleiser said. “And the school colors, I think, are the same as Rydell’s. The suburbia feel that you get from Radnor High School is sort of in Grease. The original musical was an urban musical, set in the city.”
A drive-in scene in Grease was similarly influenced by Kleiser’s teenage years in the Philadelphia area. At one point, Travolta’s Zuko sings the song “Sandy” on a swing set, which Kleiser said was inspired by the Main Line Drive-In in Devon.
“There were these little swings below the screen where kids would go and play before the sun went down,” he said. “That’s where I got the idea of Travolta sitting on the swings and singing.”
Despite Radnor High and its surrounding area providing some inspiration, the school didn’t provide a filming location. Filmmakers shot the movie thousands of miles away at Venice High School and Huntington Park High School in California.