Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies review: Rydell’s girl gang gets an uneven origin story

In the many times I’ve watched the classic 1978 movie musical Grease, I never thought of the Pink Ladies, Rydell High’s girl gang, as a symbol of radical feminism. However, in hindsight, their formation represented a disruption of gender norms in the 1950s, when the main goal for teenage girls was often seen as winning the affections of a football star. Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, a new musical prequel from showrunner Annabel Oakes, explores the origin story of these rebels in pink jackets. While the series has the potential for thoughtful storytelling, the first half of the season struggles with forgettable music, long episodes, and lukewarm central love stories.

Set in 1954, the show follows bookworm Jane Facciano (Marisa Davila), who begins the school year proudly wearing her boyfriend Buddy’s (Jason Schmidt) Rydell Rangers jacket. However, after facing gossip and hostility from the popular girls, Jane’s relationship with Buddy falls apart. Jane is joined by three other outcasts — Olivia (Cheyenne Isabel Wells), Cynthia (Ari Notartomaso), and Nancy (Tricia Fukuhara) — as they challenge Rydell’s social order by running against Buddy in the student council election. The show shines when it focuses on the protagonists’ fight against sexism and misogyny, but it occasionally gets bogged down by excessive musical numbers and subplots.

Despite some flaws, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies offers a visually stunning and diverse take on the Grease universe, with engaging performances from its female leads. While the male characters are less compelling, the show’s exploration of race and gender issues adds depth to the story. Overall, the series has broad appeal, catering to fans of musicals and those nostalgic for the original Grease.

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