On June 21, 2010, Clay Aiken performed in Raleigh at a concert called Bringing Broadway Home. The evening was a wonderful mix of performances by five talented performers who reminded the audience of the excitement of the music of Broadway.
One of the surprise highlights of the evening was Clay’s performance of Those Magic Changes, a song from the musical Grease. The song, usually considered a throwaway in the musical, was full of fun, and great vocals. The audience, with the encouragement of Terrence Mann, participated in the fun rendition by clapping in rhythm as Clay showed that he could sing all types of music with panache and vocal agility. With the great performance of this song, I wondered who wrote it.
Jim Jacob and Warren Casey are best known as the co-authors of the hit musical Grease, a rock-n-roll parody of 1950s high school life. They wrote the book, music and lyrics of the hit musical that was a light musical romance about teenagers
Originally staged as a five-hour amateur production in a Chicago trolley barn, Grease took a satirical look at the dress, manners, morals, and music of teenagers at the beginning of the rock and roll era. The original version was just a play with music, not a musical.
It just happened that two young theatre producers, Ken Waissman and Maxine Fox, saw the show.
Waissman said of the authors:
‘I told them I liked their idea, but that it wouldn’t work as a play. It had to be a musical. I told them if they were willing to move to New York, rewrite the thing from scratch with a full score, we’d like to do it as a Broadway musical.
‘They thought about it a few minutes, and then agreed. They were taking quite a gamble. It meant leaving their jobs. Warren was a lingerie buyer for a department store and Jim was a copywriter.
‘They came here and worked every day on the show, on something that might have run only one or two nights — because eight out of ten shows don’t last very long on Broadway.’
Grease opened Off-Broadway at the downtown Eden Theater, and then moved to Broadway to play at the Broadhurst Theater and eventually the Royale. At 3,388 performances the show set a record as the longest running on Broadway until 1980, when A Chorus Line overtook it. The original cast featured Barry Bostwick and Carole Demas.
What an amazing bit of luck for these two amateur composers. Jim Jacobs is still active in the Broadway community in New York. Warren Casey died of AIDS in 1988.
The first video is Clay as he sang in Raleigh. It certainly brings out the smiles. The second video is interesting as it is Johnny Contardo with ShaNaNa singing the same song. What do you think of the gold outfit?