Grease: Live! is still the word in 2016
By LAMYA ZIKRY
Fox’s much anticipated “Grease: LIVE!” which aired on Jan. 31, was exceptionally good. It was Broadway meets Hollywood: a combination of the original 1971 musical “Grease” and its Paramount Pictures’ 1978 film adaptation, although it was more cinematic than theatric.
There is no comparison to the original, but it should not be seen as a remake. Even with rain trying to get in the way and a technical sound error, the live performance was still a hit. It reintroduced and re-imagined the classic musical numbers as well as including a few original numbers.
New girl Sandy and bad boy Danny Zuko were played by Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit. Hough is known for her roles in “Footloose,” “Rock of Ages” and as a judge on “Dancing with the Stars” and Tveit for his roles in “Les Miserables” and “Graceland.”
The production opened with Jessie J singing “Grease (Is the Word)” throughout the soundstage and then out into the rain. Boyz II Men were also in the opening, performing in the background. They later returned for their rendition of “Beauty School Dropout,” a song I no longer feel the need to fast forward through. The set and the costumes were perfect and stayed true to the ’50s era setting.
Hough was a good fit for Sandy – some would say she even looks like Olivia Newton John. She used her dancing roots to nail the dance numbers. Hough also honed her singing skills and gave a great rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”
Tveit channeled his inner John Travolta and nailed the Danny Zuko facial expressions and his “Greased Lightning” performance. Tveit may not have had the strongest voice but he knew how to play the part. Although there wasn’t that much intimacy between the two, their dance number was a hit until ChaCha (Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer) steals Danny for the rest of the dance.
The Pink Ladies were led by Vanessa Hudgens, who played the role of bad girl Rizzo. Hudgens is known for her roles in “Gigi” on Broadway, “Spring Breakers” and “High School Musical.” Keke Palmer, from “Scream Queens” and “Akeelah and the Bee,” played the role of the sassy flirtatious Marty Maraschino. Carly Rae Jepsen, known for her hit song “Call Me Maybe” played the beautician wannabe, Frenchy. Kether Donohue from “Pitch Perfect” played Jan.
Hudgens stole the show – there was no performance quite like hers. Her father had just died the night before from stage-four cancer, so she dedicated her performance to him. She was both remarkable and memorable. She’s a very talented actress and performer, and you could feel the passion in her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” Ironically enough, the original song performed by Stockard Channing wasn’t a favorite, while Hudgen’s version certainly is.
Unlike NBC musicals, they weren’t trying to hide that it was a live performance. Viewers could see the cast zipping from stage to stage on golf carts and running around backstage. The drag race at the end was created using smoke and light trucks and several different camera angles, which made for a somewhat convincing scene.
Palmer’s “Freddy, My Love,” a song added to the production from the original Broadway hit, stunned viewers and transformed Palmer into an absolute star. A strong number with a quick and simple costume change gave the viewers a little more insight into who Marty was. While Frenchy’s song “All I Need Is An Angel” was not what viewers expected, she still gave a good performance.
“Grease: LIVE!” was in production for more than six months and involved more than 300 people. The teasers on social media made the production look easier than it truly was. But when you watch it, it shows just how much time and effort were put into making it all look effortless. With the final scenes and the “We Go Together” performance, the excitement and energy is not just acted – it’s real.