‘Grease: Live!': The Best and Worst Moments of the Show
Grease is the word, is the word that you heard. It's got groove, it's got meaning.
Everyone knows Grease: Moms, friends, that one distant cousin you don’t talk to. They all know Grease. The movie itself propelled Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta to superstardom, and is arguably the most well known musical of all time. FOX no doubt hoped to capitalize on this, but the question is did Grease: Live! deliver?
Armed with Broadway babies, dancing stars, and even a High School Musical veteran, Grease: Live! had its work cut out for the production — and ultimately came out a winner all around.
The Choreography: Zach Woodlee, who helped choreograph all of Glee, also helmed FOX’s live adaptation, and he did not disappoint. The scale of this entire show is immense, and in essence, the dancing never stops. It went down with a hitch. From every hand-through-the-hair machismo slick to the intricacy of the hand jive, the choreography was aces all around.
The size of it all: FOX did something that NBC has yet to do when it comes to staging a live musical, and that’s making it an experience. The scope of this production is huge, and no easy feat to accomplish. From the live studio audience to constant motion between sets and various props (including cars), it’s impressive that more didn’t go wrong, and a testament to the hard work of the cast and crew, who practiced for over two months.
The Vocals: A huge concern with live musical adaptations is, you know, the live singing. Everyone — even Julianne Hough, who isn’t the best — shined during their respective solos and group numbers. Aaron Tveit is a broadway veteran and has pipes for days, and Hough even surprised by being a solid singer, although her strength lies in the dancing. Even the supporting characters, especially Keke Palmer and Carly Slay Jepsen, wowed during their solos and make it quite apparent why they were chosen for their roles. From a vocal standpoint, the cast did the songs justice and will invigorate a whole new generation to start doing the hand jive.
Vanessa Hudgens: Baby V came to play, and boy, did she deliver! Rizzo is arguably more iconic than Danny and Sandy, and it’s a daunting role to try and master, but Hudgens did just that. While remaining true to Stockard Channing’s influence from the 1978 movie, Hudgens brought her own form of comedic delivery and pipes to a role that was under heavy scrutiny. If you watch nothing from this show but one performance, watch her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and realize just how great she was. Taking into considering her father’s untimely passing over the weekend, Hudgens' commitment to this role is even more poignant.
The Leads: As soon as it was announced that Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit would be stepping into roles made famous by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta respectively, the internet was set ablaze, with some relishing in the casting, but many having apprehensions. Hough, while embodying the whole naïve, baby deer trope that makes Sandy the little, pure cloud that she is, did leave many wondering what would have happened if FOX went with someone whose vocals were stronger. While Hough did just fine vocally, it would have been interesting to see someone really just belt those solos. As far as Tveit and his beautiful biceps, it almost felt as if he was trying to play John Travolta playing Danny Zuko, as opposed to trying to bring something original to the character. The bar was set improbably high for these characters, and who knows if anyone could do them justice, but there was a certain charisma missing from the leads.
Audio problems: To be honest, with as much going on as there was, it’s surprising that there weren’t more audio issues, but the show is live, so something was bound to happen. The show lost about 30 seconds of audio during “Born To Hand Jive” but still soldiered on. Hough’s solo of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was also plagued by some form of static. It’s not bad or threatening to the show as a whole — just a reminder that accidents happen when doing a live musical. (Oh, and Joe Jonas totally blanking on those "Blue Moon" lyrics.)
Jessie J: There is no rhyme or reason as to why FOX chose Jessie J to open the live broadcast with her rendition of “Grease (Is The Word)”. She doesn’t fit, nor was she really dressed to make it seem so. It was just confusing to bring someone in like Jessie to open the show and then never see her again.
The Race: Even live musicals as big as this run into circumstances out of their control, figuring out how to do the thunder road race was the production's responsibility. Though filmed on a lot, it would have been impossible to stage a race like in the movie, so we settle for some shaky and frantic camera work, resulting in the most intense race between two stationary vehicles in recorded history. Who’s to say what would have been a better way to realize this for the live musical, but it almost seemed silly...especially with that steering wheel camera.
Bottom Line: FOX took a huge gamble with Grease and ultimately, it was a blast; a fun and energetic experience that brought together new and old fans for a fun night of singing, dancing, and hand jiving. Although not perfect, FOX should rest easy knowing that the network did the show justice, while still injecting the production with original ideas and captivating performances from an amazing ensemble.