'Grease' parody, 'Vape: The Musical,' returns to Atlanta stage after legal battle

Atlanta’s Sketchworks Comedy has raised the curtain on its production of Vape: The Musical again, marking the end of lengthy legal action over the parody of the classic musical "Grease."

Creatives from Sketchworks Comedy say they were first inspired to create a parody of "Grease" back in 2017, after seeing a professional production of the show here in Georgia. 

"We all got together and thought, you know what? We need to do something with this. We need to make a parody of this, where it’s present day. But kind of putting a spin on it, where it’s touching on all these things that don’t really hold up today," says Sketchworks co-owner Julie Shaer.

"Vape: The Musical" opened to acclaim in 2018, and resulted in an invitation to mount the show in New York the following year. That’s when the team was served with a cease and desist letter from Concord Theatricals, which represents the rights-holders of Grease. According to that e-mail, "Vape: The Musical" was an "unauthorized" production of "Grease."

"It’s a parody. It’s not an unlicensed performance of Grease, it’s not a sequel of Grease, it’s not a performance of ‘Grease.’ It is…it’s own thing," says Sketchworks co-owner Brian Troxell. "We were in the right. And the only way to make that stand was to file a lawsuit against the rights-holders of Grease.

The case traveled through the court system for the next three years, but finally, this past May, the Sketchworks team received the news they’d been waiting for.

"I was at a stoplight, checking my e-mail, and it just came in. From our lawyer. It said, ‘You won.’ I had to pull over in a parking lot and just scream, cry tears of joy," says Troxell. "There are four factors for determining whether something is fair use, and Judge Swain found in our favor on all four of them."

Now, Vape: The Musical is back, with remaining performances taking place at The Village Theatre on Oct. 14, 15, 21 and 22. Original cast member Andrea Lainge says there’s a feeling of relief among the cast and crew.

"It always lingered in the back of my mind, like, how something so great could be shut down so fast. And I always wanted to put it back on its legs, too. So, I’m so glad this happening. Glad the lawsuit is finally over. And, yeah, just glad to be back," says Lainge.

We reached out to Concord Theatricals for comment on the lawsuit but did not receive a response. 

For more information on "Vape: The Musical," click here.