Greased Too! directed by Sean Fisher, with Jessica Holmes, Jim Taylor, Aurora Browne, Dave Pearce and others. Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Runs until May 29, Wednesday-Thursday 9 pm, Friday 9 and 11 pm, Saturday 10:30 pm. $15. 416-343-0033.
First there was Grease, and it was the word. Then there was Grease 2, a critical bomb and box-office failure, and it was supposedly the final word. And so it was until Sean Fisher (The Goatee Boys) and Jessica Holmes (Royal Canadian Air Farce) discovered a shared love of the sequel, and the idea for Greased Too!, a stage tribute to the much-maligned spinoff, was born.
"If there's one word that sums up the movie, it's 'earnestness,'" says Holmes after a recent rehearsal at the Second City studios. "The original cast put so much heart into it. With this version we're trying to exaggerate even more."
Call it a parody of a parody - although the cast isn't 100 per cent sure Ken Finkleman (of The Newsroom fame), who wrote the original screenplay, meant it as such.
Flipping the plot line of the 1978 musical, in Grease 2 the leader of Pink Ladies, Stephanie Zinone (Holmes as a pre-botox Michelle Pfeiffer), falls for a mysterious biker who is actually - surprise, surprise - Rydell High's latest import, a brainy student with a hot British accent (Jim Taylor).
Of course, none of the students recognize him as his alter ego, because he's wearing a helmet.
"The essence of Grease 2 is in the song Who's That Guy," explains Holmes. "The line is 'Who's that guy on that black motorcycle,' and Jim sings, 'What would they say if they knew it was Michael?' Our theory is that he's named Michael because it rhymes with motorcycle."
As cheesy as the soundtrack is, it does stick in your head.
"Sometimes you ask people if they've seen Grease 2 and they can't remember," says Holmes. "Then you sing one of the songs and they'll know it."
Still, not all the music falls into the so-bad-it's-good category. Director Fisher cut a number from the talent-show scene because he couldn't stomach its feigned sweetness, and Taylor admits the first time he saw the film he had trouble sitting through a sappy self-searching solo called Charades.
Onstage, the comedy comes as much from adapting the film to the Tim Sims Playhouse as from the over-the-top performances.
"For our big love ride, instead of having two people on a motorcycle, it's Jim holding a set of handlebars while I ride piggyback on him," says Holmes. "Also, I don't have a stunt double, so in the scene where Michelle Pfeiffer sings Cool Rider while straddling a ladder, we're just going with a stepladder."
While most of the cast worked together in the late 90s cult hit Co-Ed Prison Sluts, Taylor, a member of the Second City Touring Company, is a relative newcomer. Has it been challenging keeping up with the comedy veterans?
Taylor looks at Holmes.
"The hardest thing about rehearsals," he admits, "has been keeping a straight face. "