While upbeat rhythms and high-octane dance sequences define Grease, Rizzo’s lament, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” remains one of the musical’s most celebrated tunes. From the emotional maturity inherent to the song to the depth of character granted to the movie’s “so-called” bad girl, Stockard Channing embodies an isolated woman who is internally alone despite leading “the pack.” She is a woman who has fortified a tough exterior, yet owns her actions — owns her femininity and her power despite what others may think.
While Grease would not be the same without Rizzo’s song, it almost didn’t make the final cut, as it was a bit of a “downer” to those behind the production. She, with help from a few others, fought for the song. And, decades of fan appreciation have since proved they had something worth fighting for.
Stockard Channing on playing Rizzo in ‘Grease’
Before Grease rolled around, Stockard Channing was scraping “the bottom of the barrel,” as she told Broadway World. She had a mortgage and was lacking the steady stream of income needed to get by. Allan Carr (the producer) cast Channing, having witnessed her performance as a car thief in Sweet Revenge. Channing notes that she was “much older” than Rizzo and had to discover the “real person” to breathe life into the part. She shared:
“When Allan cast me out of the blue it was because they had seen a movie that I had done called ‘Sweet Revenge.’ I played the car thief…They saw this and realized I could do other things…the only way I could do this was to look at her like she was a real person. I was so much older than she was in life, but I could not think about that so I sort of threw myself back to what I felt when I was her age over, even younger. The complexity of adolescents and hormones and sexuality and all of that other stuff. Seeing that I really was older I think that added to the isolation of Rizzo.”
And, though a great deal of Rizzo’s complexity comes to the surface during “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” the number almost didn’t make it into the musical.
Stockard Channing on fighting for ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’
Stockard Channing explained to Broadway World that she and Pat Birch (who directed all the musical sequences) fought for her hit number. She shared:
“I was very much in love with that song, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, and I fought for it and Pat Birch, who directed all the musical sequences, helped me. If you see the sequence it’s very simply shot and Allan really indulged me and said, ‘go ahead just do it.’”
Though Carr “indulged” Channing, he was not committed to the number, even after the performance was shot. Channing said:
“Allan really wanted to cut it because he thought it was a downer, maybe everyone else thought it was a downer too. It was because so much about what that character was. It got in there by the skin of its teeth. Pat Birch fought for it and the director as well. It’s in there and I’m so grateful that it is.”
Today, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” lives on as an integral part of the musical— a necessary stop on the way to an uplifting conclusion that grants Rizzo (and Grease overall) a needed moment of sobriety.
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