‘Grease’ enlightening: Comedy group tackles lack of diversity in the classic musical

‘Grease’ enlightening: Comedy group tackles lack of diversity in the classic musical
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They are greasing the wheels of progress!

A local comedy troupe will debut a fan-fiction sequel to the hit musical “Grease” at Downtown’s Actors Fund Arts Center on June 5–7 — but without the lily-white cast of the original. “G3: The Browning” is a humorous take on what the fictional Rydell High would have looked like post-segregation, which the show’s creator said was inspired by her own childhood reaction to the film.

“As a black American, I fell in love with ‘Grease’ just like everybody else, but I had this weird moment where I was like, ‘That’s not me,’ ” said Hollie Harper, who wrote and directed the production with her sketch comedy group American Candy.

As with its canonical prequel, “G3” begins with some summer lovin’, but this time it is Lauren, visiting from Brooklyn, and local heartthrob Will who are having a blast. Lauren ends up staying for the school year, but it is now 1964, and like schools throughout the country, Rydell High is in the process of integration, after the town’s black high school burns to the ground. And the students don’t initially all go together like a rama-lamma-lamma-ka-dinga-da-dinga-dong.

The musical follows Lauren, Will, and their friends as they navigate the trials and tribulations of integration — and larger events of the era such as the assassination of Malcolm X — along with teen romance. With America once again engaged in a public discussion about racism and police reform, Harper said modern audiences will still find their chills are multiplyin’ while watching the characters and their struggles.

Of course, the “G3” is still a comedy, but that just makes it a little easier to tackle serious issues like racism, Harper said.

“You always have to have a spoonful of sugar to go with something bitter,” Harper said. “I think people will really be able to relate to how some things have changed and some things have not.”

“G3: The Browning” at the Actors Fund Arts Center (160 Schermerhorn St. between Smith and Hoyt streets in Boerum Hill, www.facebook.com/americancandy). June 5–6 at 8 pm, June 7 at 7 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz