I did not watch Grease live. Hold on…I did watch Grease Live!, but I didn’t watch it live. Due to events surrounding my grandmother’s 99th birthday I was forced to put off watching this made-for-TV musical later on in the week. But due to the magic of the internet age, I had options, and so watched it On-Demand from our cable box. If you’re looking for ways to watch it, see the bottom of this post.
So, preliminary thoughts – I love (televised) musicals. I had a tape of Showboat that was on PBS when I was a kid that I just about wore out. I’ve watched all the recently aired performances on NBC (Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz), and adored them…sort of. It’s hard to watch something that’s being performed live and not feel like you’re there. The first thing thing I’d heard about this production of Grease was that incorporating a live audience gave it a realer, more exciting feel. And it did – it felt very engaging, and the way the camera work was done, it felt more like being inside a TV show or movie with huge production numbers than it did a stage show with a static view of the stage.
The cast was also fantastic. Aaron Tveit (my crush from 2012’s Les Misérables who was one of the main reasons I got through as many episodes of Graceland as I did) is an exception Danny – all cocky bluster with a gooey center that melts for the right girl. That girl being Sandy, in the form of Julianne Hough. I was pleasantly surprised by Julianne, who I’ve always known as a dancer and had heard that she also had aspirations to be a singer. She was quite good, and I could definitely see her doing more musicals, because with the dance skill AND being able to sing fairly well, you are a hot commodity. If only they had the same extravagent dance numbers in musicals that they used to…
I’d also heard that Vanessa Hudgens’ (who played Rizzo) father had died earlier in the day before the production went live. Knowing this, and watching the show after, I would hardly have known. There was perhaps a misty moment while she sang “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, but Hudgens was the consummate professional, and was fantastic as Rizzo.
The rest of the cast featured names and faces that you may or may not have seen before, depending on your familiarity with the young up and comers of musical theater. But I knew Keke Palmer and Carly Rae Jepsen, and they were both delightful. The show also had a couple members of the original movie cast in featured roles, and during the curtain call, Didi Conn wore her Pink Ladies jacket, and Barry Pearl his T-birds jacket. Behind the scenes shots also showed many posters for the movie in changing and makeup rooms, so you know the cast was trying to honor the movie (and stage) versions while maintaining their own vision.
I also particularly loved the appearance by the current members of Boyz II Men as the Teen Angel(s). This is one of my favorite songs in the whole show because it’s so irreverent and with such cutting lyrics, but is done in a sweet 50s doo-wop style. If you haven’t had a chance to see that one scene (or like me are ok with reliving it again and again), take a look here.
The production in general was impressive. From the super-quick changes of the cast to the awesome transformation of the jalopy that Kenickie buys into Greased Lightnin’! A standout moment is when Marty (Keke Palmer) is singing “Freddy My Love“, and changes outfits not once, but twice, MID-SONG, and you hardly notice what’s happening. I had to go back a couple times to figure out what was happening, and then saw a featurette about that very moment and was even more impressed!
Overall, it’s a fantastic show. If you have fond memories of watching John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the original film version, you’ll have some great nostalgic moments. The music is great, the production is great – it feels like everything came together…right people, right time. So – if you’re into musicals and haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend finding an afternoon or evening and enjoying it yourself!