The Grease cast starred many talented young actors, who all worked together to create one of the most popular musicals of all time. Grease was first created in 1971 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. In 1972, the musical moved to Broadway before traveling to London. The musical was a hit, and producers Robert Stigwood and Allan Carr knew the musical would be even more popular as a film.
The producers couldn’t have been more right. After the film was released in 1978, it became the highest-grossest musical film in its time. Even the soundtrack earned a place as the nation’s second-best-selling album of the year. It was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, and it won three People’s Choice Awards, as well as one Golden Screen award. Decades later, the film is still a core part of popular culture in America. It even inspired an HBO Max series, which is rumored to finish in a few years.
Since the film aired in 1978, over 120,000 different theatres have performed their own versions of the musical. From high schools to private theatre companies, everyone wants to try their hand at this iconic musical!
Of course, the movie wouldn’t have garnered such critical acclaim had it not been for the extremely talented cast. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and Stockard Channing all captivated audiences with their performances. While the young cast remained popular for many years after the movie was released, time catches up to us all.
In today’s video, we’re going to see just how different the cast of Grease is today. Some cast members went on to star in tons more films after the musical film premiered. Others simply faded away from stardom.
Make sure you stick around until the very end of the video, where we’ll reveal which cast member shockingly became a believer of Scientology.
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Facts Verse Presents: What Happened to The Grease Cast?
The musical Grease is all about high-schoolers. Olivia Newton-John wasn’t anywhere near the age range when she auditioned for the lead role of Sandy Olsen. She was 28 years old at the time, but she managed to win the role anyway. Every person who auditioned had to pass a test known as the “crow’s feet test.” This meant that they couldn’t have any visible wrinkles during close-ups; otherwise, the audience wouldn’t believe they were teenagers.
John Travolta, played the other lead role of Danny Zuko, had wanted Olivia to win the role since day one. He put in a good word for her, and it paid off. In one interview, Travolta even said “She had a brilliant voice and I didn’t think there could be any more correct person for Sandy in the universe. I insisted that she be met and that we cast her.”
After she crushed the role of Sandy, Olivia Newton-John went on to pursue a musical career. She was highly successful and is considered one of the best-selling musical artists in existence. However, her personal life was much sadder than the public image she put out to the world.
In 2005, her boyfriend Patrick McDermott vanished during a fishing trip in 2005. Some officials suspect he faked his death, but one thing is for certain; Olivia never met with her boyfriend again.
Even more tragic, Olivia also suffered from breast cancer on two separate occasions. She used the experience to help form advocacy groups in support of other women dealing with the same issue. As of today, however, Olivia is still going strong!
Stockard Channing played Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies. When she was cast in the role, she was struggling with personal finances, but the success of the film helped her to get back on her feet. Stockard Channing’s performance as Rizzo was impressive, and it helped her earn many more large roles later on in her career. She starred in the movie Six Degrees of Separation, and she also played the First Lady in the television show The West Wing. The actress was married and divorced on four separate occasions, but she now lives happily with Daniel Gillham, her partner of 30 years, in a quiet home in Maine.
Overall, Stockard has acted in 48 different films and appeared in a total of 39 different television shows. She has been nominated for 13 Primetime Emmy Awards and seven Tony Awards, as well. While Channing is far older than she was when she appeared in Grease, age certainly isn’t stopping her from continuing to pursue her love of acting!
Jeff Conaway played the lovable Kenickie in Grease. He was only ten years old when he landed a role in the Broadway show All the Way Home, and his career in music and acting only went uphill from there. As a child, he worked as a model, and he started a rock band with his friends when he was only 15.
When the 1971 version of Grease came out, Jeff Conaway was instantly involved. He became the understudy to several roles, including the lead Danny Zuko. When it was announced that a film would be released in 1978, Jeff Conaway wasted no time in rushing to auditions.
After playing Kenickie in the film, Jeff Conaway knew he still had plenty of talent to offer to the world. He played a main character in the television series Taxi for two seasons, but he struggled with drug abuse. This caused him to leave the show after the third season. He was cast in a few more minor roles after that, but he ultimately realized that his substance abuse was negatively affecting his life. After several relapses, he finally made a full recovery. However, Jeff Conaway died of pneumonia in 2011, when he was 60 years old. If you’re proud of Jeff Conaway for his ability to recover from substance abuse, click the like button!
Didi Conn played the fun, pink-haired Frenchy in Grease. After her success in the role, she continued to act in a variety of television shows, including Benson, where she played Denise Stevens Downy, and Time Shining Station, where she played Stacy Jones.
While she divorced her first husband in 1978, she married a composer named David Shire in 1982, and the two have stayed married, having two children together. They adopted one of their children, Daniel, who was diagnosed with autism. Didi Conn became a spokesperson and activist to help others better accept and understand people on the spectrum.
In 2019, she appeared on the eleventh season of the television series Dancing on Ice, which made her the oldest contestant in the show’s history. Unfortunately, she and her dance partner Łukasz Rozycki were eliminated in the fourth week of the show. While Didi Conn hasn’t announced any other acting projects coming up soon, she hasn’t retired yet, and we can probably expect more performances from this wonderful actress!
Dinah Manoff was 22 when she landed the role of Marty Maraschino, one of the members of the Pink Ladies. She started her career as an actor in the early 70s, with her first gig being a voice actor in the film Everybody Rides the Carousel. In 1978, she acted in the sitcom Soap for a season, before she left to act in Grease at the end of the year.
In 1980, Dinah Manoff acted in her first Broadway show, where she played Libby Tucker in the play I Ought to Be in Pictures. Her performance won her the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. She also won the highly coveted Theatre World Award. She married Arthur Mortell in 1997, and together, they had three children. Dinah Manoff retired from acting in 2009.
Most of the cast members on this list chose to pursue acting long after their appearances in Grease. Kelly Ward, who played Putzie, realized he had a different calling. He decided to become a director for cartoon shows, most famously the Disney Channel show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He was 22 when he landed the role of Putzie, and he had already married his wife, Annette Foster, in 1977. The couple have three children.
Today, Ward continues to direct children’s cartoons, with his most recent work being Jake and the Neverland Pirates. While he’s slowed down on his projects in his old age, he continues to direct dialogue in a few different Disney programs here and there.
John Travolta was extremely lucky to play the lead male role of Danny in Grease. The role had initially been offered to Henry Winkler, best known for playing The Fonz in the iconic sitcom Happy Days. However, Henry Winkler denied the role, which paved the way for John Travolta to give it a shot. Just before he starred in Grease, John Travolta played the lead role in the film Saturday Night Fever. At the time, he was considered an A-list celebrity. After Grease, however, the actor found himself in a bit of a slump. Thankfully, he found himself back on his feet after appearing in Pulp Fiction and Hairspray!
His career shows no signs of slowing down, but he’s certainly changed a lot since he appeared in Grease. Today, John Travolta has fun piloting aircraft, and he’s also a believer in Scientology.
The Grease cast has certainly grown up since their debut in the 1978 film, and each member has changed remarkably. Were you more surprised to learn that Didi Conn became the oldest person to appear on Dancing on Ice, or that John Travolta became a member of a cult? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!