“Grease is the word,” … especially last night, as I, along with America, tuned in to watch Grease: Live on FOX.
When I first heard that FOX was doing Grease Live, the first thing I thought was that FOX was wanting to compete with NBC (The Sound of Music: Live, Peter Pan: Live, and The Wiz: Live). After watching Grease: Live, FOX is successfully giving NBC a run for its money!
FOX was very smart not to have its actors confined to a sound stage and to have them perform in front of a live audience. What has lacked in NBC’s live performances is the inexplicable energy that can only be achieved through a cast and audience feeding off of each other.
Initially I was very concerned about the decision to cast Julianne Hough as the innocent to edgy Sandy Young; however, she easily proved me wrong. Compared to her previous performances (movie adaptations of Rock of Ages and Footloose) this was Hough’s best performance. Julianne’s dance expertise was capitalized, her acting was authentic, and her singing was well polished.
As expected, Aaron Tveit was excellent as the heartthrob, Danny Zuko. His musical experience (Next to Normal on Broadway, Catch Me if You Can on Broadway, and the movie adaptation of Les Miserables) shined as he made this performance his own while paying homage to John Travolta’s original portrayal.
We all know that Vanessa Hudgens has a background in musicals (High School Musical series, Rent in the Hollywood Bowl, and Gigi on Broadway). But, wow! The range that she showed playing Betty Rizzo was exceptional. Hudgens balanced playing the sarcastic girl with a reputation while showing Rizzo’s softer side during, “There Are Worst Things I Could Do.” Despite mourning, her performance did not appear to be hindered by grieving the loss of her father, who died the day before the live show.
FOX advertised Grease: Live as a party, and they delivered. It was a high-octane event with many star-studded performances by a diverse ensemble. Jessie J and Boyz II Men rocked “Grease is the Word.” Breakout star Jordan Fisher’s velvety smooth rendition of “Those Magic Feelings” left America wanting to more. I am glad “Freddy My Love” was included so Keke Palmer (Broadway’s Cinderella) could have her moment during the show. Joe Jonas and DNCE perfectly set the soundtrack to the energetic Rydell High school dance. The scene shared by the two Frenchys (Didi Conn-original Frenchy and Carly Rae Jepson-Frenchy in Grease:Live), had America feeling nostalgic. Plus, it was great to see the familiar faces of Barry Pearl (Doody in the original Grease movie) and Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch).
Well done, FOX! Having Thomas Kail (Broadway’s Hamilton director) at the helm with choreographer Zach Woodley (Glee‘s choreographer) and Broadway veteran costume designer, William Ivey Long, enabled the cast to meld the stage script and movie script while, making it their own. I am definitely looking forward to March 20, 2016, when FOX has its next live musical event, The Passion.