“Grease Live!”: a you’re-there feel that raises the bar for live TV

grease live posterDid you check out Grease Live! last night?  Well, because I’m a former high-school musical nerd that can never resist the opportunity to post a picture of Aaron Tveit, I’ll give you a bullet-point rundown of what I noticed about this live broadcast.  Nutshell?  While it wasn’t as shiny and slick as the Grease we all know and love from 1978, what could be?  Grease is a touchstone.  Grease Live! was a rollickin’ bit of live musical theater that not only wiped the bad taste of Peter Pan out of my mouth, it gave me the feeling that I was rolling and rocking right along with the cast, crew and live audience.  Grease Live! may not be the word, but it’s a helluva ride just the same. Onward, to my thoughts and stuff!

  • Thank the GODS for the diverse cast!  It lends an authenticity to the supposed lower-middle high school.  Scream Queens‘ Keke Palmer was amazing as Marty Maraschino, and she nailed the not-in-the-film-but-in-the-stage-version showstopper “Freddy My Love”.
  • While I’m thinking about that scene, kudos to the wardrobe department, and the costume designer who had the Pink Ladies go from slumber party to USO singers seamlessly.  Live TV, people.  That’s damn impressive.
  •  But what was up with the band during the dance-off?  Yeah yeah yeah; Joe Jonas and his new band DNCE.  Couldn’t somebody tell Cole Whittle his stupid off-center hair poof should be a bit more…tamed?  Hell, do what you want on your time.  But this is a musical set in 1959. Don’t be this guy.

    Grease Live DNCE

    Him. On the left. #WTF

  • Vanessa Hudgens did an amazing job as Rizzo, even for someone like me who thinks nobody could ever top Stockard Channing.  (Because nobody can y’all.  Just accept it.)  Hudgens didn’t go the easy route and mimic Channing, she did her own thing.  And her version of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was on-point.  The fact that Hudgens lost her father the day before this show only serves to up my amazement, and leaves me incredibly impressed.
  • While at first I thought the three-hour running time “sounds like a drag”, the directors of the show kept it lean and moving right along.  (No big shock;  Thomas Kail helms Hamilton on Broadway, and Alex Rudzinski is Mr. Dancing With The Stars.) Yes, it’s not exactly what you remember from the film.  But folks who love the stage play will recognize bits here and there.  And the interplay between the familiar film and the theater-geeking stage bits blend seamlessly.
  • Here’s where I gush over Aaron Tveit.  As with Hudgens, Tveit avoids channeling his inner Travolta and makes Danny Zuko his own.  Loved him in Les Miz, and he shows off his Broadway chops here too.  Plus, looks great in shorts.  All I’m sayin’.
  • Great idea to fourth-wall-bust during scene changes.  Having the cameras follow the cast and crew as they hop on golf carts to get from one soundstage to the next gave this live performance a you’re-there urgency that kept things fun and fresh.  Seeing the cast break character during these tidbits as they mugged for the camera felt like being let behind the velvet rope.  Nice touch.
  • Speaking of nice touch — how’s about those cameos? Didi Conn and Barry Pearl, from the original Grease!  Eve Plumb, aka Jan from The Brady Bunch!
  • The only problem with Grease Live!? It’ll be hell trying to top it.  NBC’s Hairspray has its work cut out for it this December.

That’s all I’ve got.  So, if you haven’t seen it yet?  Give it a spin.  Okay.  One more cast pic.  Because who doesn’t love Tveit 50s retro?

Grease live castshot

(Photos: FOX)

 

 

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One Response to “Grease Live!”: a you’re-there feel that raises the bar for live TV

  1. Diana Chetelat says:

    Where’s the love for Julianne Hough? Girlfriend truly emoted the Newton John! Not just the pipes but of course the girl can dance. She pulled it off. Sweet, virginal and naive. The choreography was new and fresh. The dancers were on their game and better than the original movie. I have also seen the play live on stage and this production exceeded my expectations. It’s hard to replace the original movie that has entertained us through almost 4 decades but this can compliment it. I appreciate the diversity, I saw Marty Maraschino as a new character and nothing like the original. I loved the original Marty and Yes, I loved the cameos. I was OK with the more “sophisticated” sounding Zuko. Travolta was better at playing a “hood, but Voice-wise, Tveit blows Vinny Barbarino away:-) I would have liked to seen Zac Effron-High School Musical character as Zuko or Channing Tatum-maybe he’s too famous now…alas. Stockard Channing is a class act and very hard to replace. I give Hudgins an A+ for effort and considering the sad events that she was going through an even Bigger A+. I would have ventured that Naya Rivera would have played a much stronger Rizzo because she can pull off the tough gal. I thought it would have been really hard to replace Edd “Cookie Lend Me your Comb” Byrnes, but I was surprised at how well Mario Lopez played his part and read his lines. All in all it was fresh and enjoyable. I was beyond sceptical after the sophomoric attempt to bring Peter Pan back live. This rendition will be a keeper and I will even buy the DVD to watch again.

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