The Paramount+ series ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ takes the audience back to the world of ‘Grease,’ the 1978 classic musical romantic comedy film that has enthralled generations. The web show is a prequel set in 1954, about four to five years before the events of the original film, and depicts the formation of the Pink Ladies, the clique Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy Olsson is part of in the original film. The setting of both the original film and the 2023 series, along with ‘Grease 2’ (1982), is Rydell High. If you are wondering whether Rydell High is a real school, we got you covered.
Is Rydell High School a Real School?
No, Rydall High is not a real school. As many of you may know, ‘Grease’ was developed by the debutant director Randal Kleiser from a screenplay by Bronté Woodard and an adaptation by Allan Carr, who based it on the namesake stage musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. In Jacobs and Casey’s work, Rydell High is located in Chicago, Illinois, and is modeled after Taft High School (William Howard Taft High School) located at 6530 W Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, where Jacobs was a student in his youth. The stage musical is somewhat of a memoir by Jacobs, a rendition of his own experiences as a greaser in the late 1950s.
In contrast to the light and fluffy renditions of Broadway and Hollywood, Jacobs’ experience is darker and edgier. In a 2009 interview with The Times of Northwest Indiana, the playwright speculated that it would be “R-rated today.” “They want it all sugar-coated and sweet, heavenly,” Jacobs stated humorously. “… I don’t know what’s happened to America in the last 35 years.”
In the adaptation process, Kleiser took several creative liberties. He brought the setting to a more suburban area, drawing his inspiration from his youth in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attending Radnor High School, located at 130 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, Pennsylvania.
“I ran the low hurdle, and I put that in where Danny Zuko is running the hurdle and tripped. That happened to me — I was in a race and tripped,” Kleiser told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. “And the school colors, I think, are the same as Rydell’s. The suburbia feel that you get from Radnor High School is sort of in ‘Grease.’ The original musical was an urban musical, set in the city.”
In the film, Rydell is a high school in California, though the name of the town it is situated in is never mentioned. In terms of filming location, Rydell is a combination of three schools in the original film. The art-deco façade that is supposed to be Rydell High is actually Venice High School at 13000 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles. Some of the interior scenes, especially the dance scene in the gym, were shot at Huntington Park High School, situated at 6020 Miles Avenue, Huntington Park, downtown Los Angeles. The big splashy “You’re The One That I Want” carnival finale was filmed in the fields of John Marshall High School, located at 3939 Tracy Street in Silverlake, Los Angeles.
For ‘Grease 2,’ the filming location for Rydell High shifted to Excelsior High School, a since-closed institution situated at 15711 Pioneer Boulevard, Norwalk, California. As for ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,’ the series creator Annabel Oakes and her team have chosen Vancouver Technical Secondary School at 2600 East Broadway in Vancouver, British Columbia.
It has almost become a tradition among Hollywood production houses to bring their projects to Canada because of cost-effectiveness, especially when the said projects are set in expensive places like California, as ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ is. On the 40th anniversary of ‘Grease,’ Kleiser gave perhaps the most direct and appropriate answer about the location of Rydell High during an interview with Yahoo Entertainment. “I think it’s in Movieland,” he said.
Read More: Is Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies Based on a True Story?