By Gianna Pisano
Entertainment Weekly says it, “. . . wasn’t just live. It was alive.” Variety calls it a “must-see event . . . as sweet and tasty as a root beer float.” The Hollywood Reporter refers to it as “breathtaking.” What are they all talking about? Fox’s live production of “Grease: Live!” of course!
On January 31, Fox put on a live production of Grease with an all-star cast including Julianne Hough (Sandy), Aaron Tveit (Danny), Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo), Carly Rae Jepsen (Frenchy), Keke Palmer (Marty), and Carlos PenaVega (Kenicke). The three hour show, though similiar to previous live television productions, quickly showed from the beginning that it would outshine those that came before it, such as The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and The Wiz. Not only would “Grease: Live!” have a live studio audience, they would also be doing scenes outside, come rain or shine. Neither of these components were used with the other live productions, and they helped to draw an even larger at-home audience— and once they were watching, it was hard for them to stop.
From the second the production started with Jessie J singing “Grease is the Word” and the cameras following her throughout backstage and among the different sets, the audience is drawn in. Even when she goes outside and the actors and dancers are seen with umbrellas because of the rain, it only caused those watching to become more intrigued and taken in by the performance. After the song is over and the viewers meet Sandy, Danny, and the Pink Ladies and T-Birds, their energy is clear, and it is evident that they want to both stick to the original and make Grease their own, which they flawlessly accomplish throughout the production.
There were a few changes, however, that bothered some fans of the 1978 classic. For example, Sandy leaves during the American Bandstand Dance Competition because she is camera-shy, not because Danny starts dancing with Cha-Cha. Additionally, numerous lyrics were changed in certain songs to make the program more television appropriate. Nonetheless, these minor changes were necessary for the overall production, and did not take away from it in its entirety.
Looking at all the performances, there were many that stood out, but none stole the spotlight more than Vanessa Hudgens singing “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” The night before the production, Hudgens’ father passed away after a long battle with cancer. She said that she would perform in honor of him, and her memorable rendition of this song proved it. Other highly regarded performances include the highly energized “Hand Jive” and “Greased Lightning,” as well as Keke Palmer singing “Freddy My Love,” and Julianne Hough with Sandy’s classic “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”
Throughout the course of the production, numerous fan favorite moments occurred, with the most special including a very familiar face. Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the movie, took on the role of the waitress, Vi, who works in the diner and gives Frenchy advice. Seeing the parallel between the two provided a deeper connection between the original movie and live production and was one of the true highlights of the night for fans.
From one stellar performance and memorable moment to the next, the highly entertaining production was for sure one to be remembered. By the end, when the audience saw the cast singing “We Go Together” and dancing at the carnival, one knew for sure that “Grease: Live!” is going to be hard to top.