“Phantom of the Opera” 30th Anniversary Finale Performance

After hours of anticipation, “The Phantom of the Opera’s” 30th anniversary finale performance was live streamed on FaceBook on October 10, 2016. The event was live streamed so that  people from all around the world with access to the popular social media account could watch the video live on the show’s page.

The special event took place in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre after the show ended for the night. It featured current and former “Phantom” actors, as well as the creator and composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber with producer, Cameron Mackintosh.

The event started with a video of some history and former interviews. Then, two of the cast members literally unveiled Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. The two gentlemen went on to talk about the original cast, the music and failed attempts with live animals and robotic rats. It was very easy to tell the two are close and have been friends for a long time.

After the two finished speaking, Webber went to his piano and out came Sierra cuczpkbueaarknw-jpg-smallBoggess, an actress who has played Christine several times in various productions, including the 25th Anniversary, which was filmed and released on DVD. Boggess is a current cast member of the Paris production, which has unfortunately been delayed.

Boggess gave a beautiful French rendition of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and switched to English for the last verse. I do not speak French so I could not tell if her pronunciation was correct or not, but she sang beautifully. Her voice has definitely improved since the “Phantom” 25th anniversary release.

Just when you think it cannot get any better, former London Raoul,  Michael Ball, stepped out to sing “All I Ask of You” along with current cast members Celinde Schoenmaker (Christine) and Nadim Naaman (Raoul). Not only was the trio incredibly talented, but they were also hilarious.

Ball came in with his big, beautiful voice, all the while having fun with the song by havingcufjszyueaijeju-jpg-small a “bromance” moment with Webber, who was at the piano. Schoenmaker came in for the next verse, then Naaman and the two Raouls started playfully fighting over Christine. It ended with Ball and Naaman pushing Schoenmaker aside and fishing the last chorus while embracing. Can you say Raoul-mance?

After the most hilarious version of “All I Ask of You” I have ever seen, the title song began to play and current cast members, Celinde Schoenmaker and Ben Forster (Phantom) entered, then the members of the Paris production, Sierra Boggess (Christine) and Gardar Thor Cortes (Phantom). Joining the two duos was former Phantom, John Owen-Jones and current standby for the title role, Scott Davis.

The two Christines and four Phantoms were absolutely amazing. Cortes and Boggess were fantastic. It was nice to hear the Paris cast sing a couple of the lines in French. Schoenmaker and Forster were mesmerizing and had the best chemistry. John Owen-Jones was perfect and Davis was great. I cannot imagine a better sextet (group of six people).

The final number was a short version of “Masquerade” with the cast. Once it was over, the special guests and original cast and crew, including Michael Crawford, came out to sing “Happy Birthday” to the show.

Overall, the finale was amazing. My only complaint is that the four Phantoms did not sing the hit song, “Music of the Night,” which would have been lovely to hear in French by Cortes and we would have been able to hear the actors’ individual voices.

I loved watching the cast members perform and it was great to get a little taste of the Paris production. I feel extremely thankful to have been one of many to watch the finale live stream on FaceBook alongside many other fans. Here’s to 30 more years “Phantom.”

“Witness” movie review

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When Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), a young widow, and her young son, Samuel (Lucas Haas) take a trip to Philadelphia, their lives are forever changed. After Samuel witnesses a murder scene, he must help Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) find the man.

After Book becomes wounded during a confrontation, he must stay with Rachel and Samuel’s Amish family while recovering and remain hidden to keep the boy safe. During their time together, John and Rachel fall in love.

“Witness” is a 1985 film starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover and Patti LuPone. Among it’s many nominations and wins, it was nominated for eight Oscars and won two for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Film Editing.”

Despite it’s high praise and becoming a hit at the box office after it’s fifth week in theaters, it was not a favorite among the Amish community due inaccuracy and fear of bringing in more tourists to their location. The movie was boycotted upon its release, which caused Pennsylvania governor, Dick Thornburgh, to make an agreement to never promote Amish communities in the future.

This was Harrison Ford’s big break out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and he was nominated for his first and only Academy Award. At the time this was a new territory for him and fans who knew him as Han Solo and/or Indiana Jones. Many people on social media have said this to be some of his best acting.

The film has some humorous moments, such as when Harrison Ford was in an Amish outfit and the first time his character milked a cow. There were more funny moments, but these are the two that stood out. It helped that Ford made hilarious facial expressions when the situation called for it.

While the movie is filled with suspense, action and romance, it shows not only what it is like to be an outsider in a community different than your own, but also when two different worlds come together. One man is an independent detective from Philadelphia who brings in and carries a gun. The other is a non-violent and VERY religious group of people who live away from the big city, do not use modern technology and work together.

As a Christian who has learned about different denominations, it was nice to see John Book’s character development. At the beginning of the movie he looks baffled and awkward the first time he sees Rachel and Samuel pray over a meal and then at the film’s climax he appears to have an understanding of the religion.

It does not take long for John and Rachel to fall for each other, however, it is forbidden because of her belief and customs. Despite their differences, they have some very cute moments. My favorite part in particular is the dancing scene, it is very sweet and shows John’s fun side. Harrison Ford can sing a bit too. Who knew?

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There was one moment in the film that crossed a line for me. It was a rather intimate scene between John and Rachel as he watched her through a window while he was outside and their eyes meet. As powerful as it was meant to be, it made him look like a stalker.

The acting was phenomenal and and the story had a great buildup with powerful moments. I loved seeing Patti Lupone (original “Les Misérables” London cast) in the film almost as much as I enjoyed watching a young Harrison Ford in what is known as one of his best performances.

The ending was not what I expected, and I am usually pretty good at predicting those. It was more realistic compared to most Hollywood romance films. I would highly recommend it if you are a fan of thrillers, romance or just Harrison Ford movies in general. Catch it on Netflix while you can.

“Phantom of the Opera” 2004 v.s. 25th Anniversary

“The Phantom of the Opera” is a story about love, seduction and mystery. Over the years there have been countless film versions, including the 2004 movie based off the 1986 musical adaption. For the 25th anniversary of the stage show, the London performance was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall and released on DVD months later.

The movie is now considered below par among most “Phans” who love the stage show. Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson starred in it and Joel Schumacher directed it.

Watching the film now, I have noticed a few things I did not a few years ago. The leads are not as impressive as I thought previously, and a few things do not make sense, one of them is the “Point of No Return” scene. It looks as if Christine is plotting her own plan, rather than being scared like in the stage show.

After years of the 2004 movie being the only source to view the musical when it was not on tour, it was a surprise when the “Phantom” team announced the 25th anniversary of the stage show would be recorded and released on DVD in 2011 for the U.K. and 2012 for the U.S.

The 25th anniversary starred Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser as the lead roles. Karimloo and Boggess had been in different productions of “Phantom” and co-stared in the “Phantom” sequel, “Love Never Dies.” Fraser was the only actor of the three who had no experience with the show.

Butler and Karimloo played the Phantom differently, however, Karimloo portrayed the role on West End and had more experience. He made the role his own and has a fantastic voice.

Butler is more of an actor than a singer, which is not good considering the role is vocally demanding and the Phantom is meant to have an angelic voice. Schumacher chose Butler because of his looks, rather than his voice and told him to “make it sexy” during filming.

The Phantom is not meant to be a physically handsome man. The character’s voice and skills as a musician are what make him beautiful. His desire for love and to have an undeformed face are what make him human and depending on who portrays the Phantom, he can be a bit childlike. While these are traits that make the audience love him, he is meant to be insane, angry and murderous, which is why people in the show fear him.

Boggess and Rossum are very different in their portrayals of Christine. Like Karimloo, Boggess had previously played her role and is considered a fan favorite. She has an incredible soprano voice and put a lot of emotion into the character.

Rossum was 16 years old at the time of filming for the 2004 movie and while she is a good actress, there was not a lot of emotion in her voice, which is an important aspect of the show. Her version of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is mediocre and I did not hear the sadness or desperation that the song requires when I last watched the film.

Christine is vocally and physically demanding role. The character has the most stage time; she is a ballet dancer and hits the highest note in the musical (E6). Throughout the show the audience can see her character development, as she goes from being shy and innocent to a woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself.

Stage actors, Fraser and Wilson are very different in their portrayals of Raoul. Fraser’s Raoul tended to come off as rude, angry and a bit unemotional. He is not my favorite and it did not help he was playing Javert in the stage version of “Les Misérables” at the time. However, he had the right look and he has a great voice. He would make a fantastic Phantom if he ever decided to portray the role.

Originally, Wilson auditioned for the Phantom, but was given the role of Raoul. He did a great job with the character and had a good voice to match. Unfortunately, his long and distracting wig often overshadows this.

Raoul is the anti-Phantom. He is handsome, young and his love for Christine is pure. He will risk his own life for the woman he loves and is not intimidated by the Phantom. Depending on who plays the role, Raoul is either likable or hated. It all comes down to the actor.

The biggest hit or miss for any “Phantom” film is the deformity. Why is this important?

  • It is a part of the Phantom’s appearance
  • It is part of the reason why the Phantom is bitter and angry at the world
  • It is the reason why the Phantom is insecure
  • It gives Christine a reason to fear him in the first act
  • It is a mystery to the audience until nearly the end of the musical
  • It shows the makeup artist’s talent

A “Phan’s” definition of a good deformity means the Phantom’s face has to look hideous and he must have very little hair. We saw it in the anniversary; unfortunately, we received the exact opposite in the 2004 film. The Phantom had a head full of blonde hair and the deformity looked like a sunburn.

The sets in both films are different. The movie has a more realistic set design, including a few ideas from the novel, which I love. The look for the opera house was very well done, especially for the stage. I liked the underground lair and the Phantom’s organ.

The 25th anniversary included props from the original stage show. Unfortunately, some of them had to be left out, but the cast was able to work around it. Personally, I prefer this set because it gives the audience the magic of the musical.

I grew up with the 2004 version of “Phantom,” but the 25th anniversary is my favorite. It introduced me to actors I did not know of in 2012 and it gave me a higher appreciation for people involved in theater. It is fantastic and is a must have for any fan of the stage show or movie.

“Kinky Boots” tour review

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“Kinky Boots” is one of the several musicals I have gone to see without any previous knowledge of the plot, setting, music, etc. I saw the show for the first time on February 13, 2016 when it came to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and I enjoyed it.

The musical, “Kinky Boots” is based off the 2005 film of the same name. The music was written by singer/songwriter, Cyndi Lauper and won six Tony awards in 2013, including “Best Musical.” It also won “Best Musical Theater Album” at the Grammys in 2014.

Charlie Price (Adam Kaplan) has no choice but to take over his family’s shoe making business after the death of his father. As he tries to come up with ideas to save the shop, one night he stumbles upon Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a drag queen who tells him after one of the club shows that his/her expensive heels are always breaking. After the meeting, Price conjures up the idea to make high heel boots designed for men and offers Lola a position as the designer.

As the story continues, Price and Lola form a friendship and begin to understand each other. They discover they are more alike than they thought when they speak of their childhood and fathers. Price also learns to accept not only Lola’s work that could help save his family business, but her as a person.

Adam Kaplan did a great job as Charlie Price. He had a strong and fantastic voice that seemed to suit the character. His vocal abilities really shone in the song “Soul of a Man.”

J. Harrison Ghee was phenomenal as Lola. He had a fantastic voice.One of the best songs he sang was “Hold Me in Your Heart.” The actor gave a good insight to the character and the struggles Lola went through in his life as a man who likes to cross dress. Ghee did a great job portraying Lola with the correct amount of sassiness and flair.

NOTE: Please forgive any incorrect use of “he” or “she” regarding Lola.

The entire cast did a great job and I especially loved seeing Aaron Walpole as Don. I saw Walpole while he was in “Les Misérables” on Broadway, it was great to see him playing a hilarious character with more stage time.

I thought “Kinky Boots” was pretty good and it met my expectations. It was not a show I was familiar with like I was with “The Phantom of the Opera,” “West Side Story” or “Les Miserables.” All I knew when I went into the show was that “Kinky Boots” involved drag queens. It made me laugh, and I thought the music and choreography were great. I enjoyed the message the story gave of learning to accept others who are different than you.

“Phantom of the Opera” Book v. Musical

Have you ever seen a musical and then read the book it was based on, or vice versa?

If you have, you might have noticed some big or small differences in the story lines. This is true for the musical based on the novel, “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The book was written and published by Gaston Leroux, a French novelist, in 1909. A British composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, made the novel come alive on stage with a musical production in 1986. It continues to be one of the longest running shows on London’s West End and on New York’s Broadway.

The storyline for both the musical and novel are the same. A man with a deformed face is in love with a young Swedish soprano, Christine Daaé, who he gives vocal lessons to. Christine falls in love with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Changy, who returns the same feelings. Danger approaches when the Phantom’s orders are disobeyed and the two lovers become closer.

While some details in the novel and musical remain the same, there are a lot of differences. However, a couple of details from the novel were added to the 2004 movie, based on Webber’s stage production. One example is the maze of mirrors, which was mentioned in the stage adaption, but came to life in the film.

One of the biggest differences between the novel and the musical, is the Phantom’s deformity. In the book the deformity covers his entire face and he is forced to wear a full face mask. In the stage version, the deformity only covers half of his face and he wears a half mask.

The decision Prince and Webber make to give the Phantom half of a mask allows them to captivate the audience even more. We can see his expressions and emotions more clearly than we can visualize it in the book. Another example of such contrast between the two versions is the Phantom’s name. Leroux named him “Erik” in the novel and in the musical, he is “The Phantom.” 

Raoul is another character in “The Phantom of the Opera” that is portrayed differently in the book as well as the stage production. In the book, he is jealous, has a temper problem and is a bit of a stalker. Why Christine fell in love with him, I may never know because he does not seem pleasant to be around. However, he did go through a lot of trials and torture to try and save Christine from Erik’s kidnapping at nearly the end of the story, so you cannot say he did not love her.

Depending on how he is portrayed in the musical, Raoul can be the biggest sweetheart and very adorable. He also has a backbone, can hold his own against the Phantom and is very much in love with Christine. The character is easy to fall in love with, but it depends on who is playing him.

Another character difference is Madame Giry. In the book, she is the ballet teacher and the Phantom’s messenger, who he pays. She does not have a large role in the novel compared to the musical adaption.

In the musical, Madame Giry is a mother figure to Christine and knows more about the Phantom than anyone in the opera house. Much like in the book, she is the ballet teacher and the Phantom’s messenger. She is also intimidating and one of the strongest women in the novel and stage version.

In Webber’s production, Madame Giry knew who the Phantom was because she visited a traveling fair he was in and never forgot him. The 2004 film gave them a slightly bigger story in regard to their past.

The person who knew the most about Erik in the novel is the Persian, who often confronts him and is an old friend. Their friendship, and Erik’s past in general, is elaborated more in the book, “Phantom” by Susan Kay.

Susan Kay’s novel, “Phantom” is the story of Erik’s life and how he came to be the Phantom. It also elaborates on his and Christine’s relationship and how he came to be her teacher. The ending is very different from the stage version and original book.

*Spoilers for the ending of the book and musical*

The biggest difference between the two versions is the ending. In the book, Erik dies of a broken heart after letting Christine and Raoul leave. In the musical, once they are free, the Phantom disappears from under his cloak and no one knows where he went.

Personally, I prefer the musical’s ending. It is not as sad and gives the Phantom a chance to start over. It left the future for the Phantom, Christine and Raoul wide open, with a touch of mystery and a stunned audience. Ah, the magic of theater.

*End of spoilers*

If you are a fan of the “Phantom of the Opera” musical, then you will like the novel. If you have not seen the stage version, the best way to view it is to buy the 25th anniversary on DVD or Blu-Ray. The 2004 movie of the same name is good too, but it does not have the same magic the show has.

I have been a “Phan” for years and I think “Phantom” is one of the best musicals of all time. If you have not seen it, you are missing out, there is something in it for everyone.

If I could recast the “Phantom of the Opera” movie in 2016

Do you ever watch “The Phantom of the Opera” 2004 movie and say, “What were they thinking?”

Do you ever wish they had cast Ramin Karimloo as Raoul instead of Christine’s father, who only had two, three second cameos. Do you wish they had casted a vocally stronger Christine, a younger looking Raoul and a better singer than Gerard Butler? So do I.

If I could recast “The Phantom of the Opera” movie in 2016, this is who I would cast:

Phantom

John BarrowmanJohn-Barrowman-image-john-barrowman-36440683-600-850

Barrowman played Raoul in “Phantom” on West End (London) in 1992. He has a lot of stage experience, having been in many musicals before he was on television. He has also recorded several albums over the years and has toured after their releases.

Barrowman is famous for being on the television shows “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood” and “Arrow.” He currently plays the villain in the latter, so Phantom would not be a big stretch.

Like Gerard Butler, he is Scottish and very good looking. Unlike Butler, he is a professional theater actor, who is vocally trained and would have more knowledge of what the role requires.

 

Christine

Julia UdineUnknown

Udine is 22-years-old, portrayed Christine on the “Phantom” U.S. tour and is currently playing the same role on Broadway. She has a spectacular voice and is a fan favorite due to her age and career.

I saw her twice on tour and she is one of my favorite actresses who has played the role of Christine. Her acting and vocal range are amazing.

Like Emmy Rossum, Udine is one of the youngest actresses to play the role. Unlike Rossum, Udine is a professional theater actress and knows what is required to play the role. She can sing with emotion and her voice would not be as low during “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”

 

Raoul

Chris McCarrellIMG_6400

McCarrell is currently portraying Marius in the “Les Misérables” revival (closing in March). He is young, has a great voice and has a smile that melts fangirls’ hearts.

Personally, I think he would be a great fit if he was given the chance to play Raoul, even on Broadway. He would portray the role better than Patrick Wilson, who has a great voice, but wore a terrible wig and looked too old for the part.

 

 

Meg

Samantha BarksSamantha Barks, Awardsline, December 15, 2012

Barks is one of the biggest names in musical theater. She got her start in on the BBC show “I’d Do Anything,” a show where girls and young boys competed to play Nancy and Oliver for the musical, “Oliver.” She was the youngest competitor and came in third.

Since “I’d Do Anything,” Barks was in “Les Misérables” on West End, the 25th anniversary concert and 2012 movie version as Eponine. She played the role of Nancy in the “Oliver” U.K. tour in 2011 before leaving to film “Les Mis” and returning a year later. She has been in several movies and musicals since then.

Barks is a Mezzo-Soprano and she can dance, so I think she could portray Meg and do the role justice. I am a huge fan of hers and I know this is a role she would knock out of the park.

 

Madame Giry

Idina Menzel

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Is there anything this woman cannot do? Musicals, movies, television shows, albums and a large fan base from around the world. This woman can do it all.

Menzel started her Broadway career as Maureen in the musical, “Rent,” a role she reprised 10 years later for the movie version. Since then she has been in “Wicked,” a role which she won a Tony for, but her overall career seemed to take off once she played Elsa in Disney’s, “Frozen.”

While she has never played a role like Madame Giry, that I know of, she would nail it. Plus, I would love to see her and Barks playing mother and daughter.

 

Carlotta

Kristin ChenowethUnknown-1

Another woman who can do anything and she can do it in style. She is also from my home state, Oklahoma, so I am a bit biased.

Chenoweth is another fan favorite. She is funny, can hold some very high notes and can play any role she is given. She won a Tony for her role as Sally in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” has been in several other musicals, movies, television shows and hosted the Tony Awards in 2015 with Alan Cumming.

Chenoweth is well known for originating the role of the popular girl, G(a)linda in the musical, “Wicked,” so I do not think Carlotta is much of a stretch. Chenoweth is a very talented actress and has a fantastic voice, I would love to see her as Carlotta.

 

Andre and Firmin (The Managers)

Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser

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Hadley Fraser (left) and Ramin Karimloo (right)

Over the past few years these two have been known to portray enemies while in a musical together. In the “Phantom” 25th anniversary in 2011, Karimloo played Phantom and Fraser played Raoul. On West End’s “Les Misérables” in 2012, Karimloo played Jean Valjean and Fraser played Javert. In reality, they are best friends and have their own band.

I can very easily see Karimloo and Fraser as the managers.  I think they would have fun with it and make the audience laugh. The roles are not as vocally challenging as the Phantom and Raoul are, but it would give Fraser and Karimloo a chance to act like goofballs.

BONUS:

The Auctioneer

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The original Phantom and inspiration to many, who was robbed of his chance to be in the 2004 “Phantom” movie, Michael Crawford. That is all.

“Grease Live” review

It’s electrifying! The long awaited live musical telecast, “Grease Live” was a hit among viewers, beating NBC’s “The Wiz.” The FOX television event aired on the evening of January 31, 2016. I had only seen the film and I am still not familiar with the stage version, but I was not disappointed with the new one.

“Grease Live” was directed by Thomas Kail (Director of the musical “Hamilton”) with an all star cast, including Aaron Tveit (“Les Misérables” and “Graceland”) as Danny, Julianne Hough (“Safe Haven”) as Sandy, Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical”) as Rizzo, Keke Palmer as Marty, Carlos PenaVega (“Big Time Rush”) as Kenickie, Jordan Fisher (“Teen Beach”) as Doody and Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy. The cast also included Didi Conn and Barry Pearl from the 1978 film.

Aron Tveit was easily the fan favorite, having stage, movie and television experience. He had the voice and the looks for Danny. He stated months before, he was growing his hair out for the event. While no one is John Travolta (Danny in the 1978 movie version), Tveit managed to steal the hearts of many, mainly females. He did justice to “Greased Lightnin’,” “Summer Nights” and “Sandy” without stealing Travolta’s version of the character.

Julianne Hough did a great job as Sandy. She made the character her own and wowed the audience with “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” She was the perfect choice for the character and her dancing was amazing as well.

Vanessa Hudgens was the all time favorite of the live event. Just hours before the musical was to air she announced very devastating news, but managed to put on one of the best performances of the night. She portrayed Rizzo the way the character is meant to be played, much like Stockard Channing in the 1978 movie. Hudgens poured her heart out in “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and it looked like she had a blast singing “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee.” She was the hero and inspiration of the evening.

One of the most impressive performances of the evening came from Jordan Fisher who stole women’s hearts with his version of “Those Magic Changes.” Joe Jonas made an appearance as the band singer, Johnny Casino, reminding Jonas Brothers fans why we loved him. Keke Palmer did great as Marty and did a good job singing her number “Freddie My Love,” a song from the original stage production.

Boys II Men were cast as the Teen Angel (played by Frankie Avalon in the movie), a role famous for the song “Beauty School Dropout.” Boys II Men were actually very good, which I was not expecting considering I did not know they were playing the part and they are a R&B vocal group.

One of the disappointments during the evening was, not surprisingly, Carly Rae Jepsen singing the new song “All I Need Is An Angel.” The pop singer mixed with a number the audience did not ask for, managed to have people on social media asking, “What is this” and “Where is ‘Beauty School Dropout?'”

“All I Need Is An Angel” might have worked if it was sung by a professional theater actress and not Jepson. The pop singer’s voice did not fit the character, but she played the role very well.

Another let down was the infamous Thunder Road scene. I know you cannot race cars on a small set, but it was too obvious the cars were not moving.

Overall, this was a new favorite among theatre fans who tune in to watch live musicals on television. The sets were amazing and the camera work was phenomenal. The casting was perfect and the dancing was great without completely copying the movie. It is a must see for fans of the film as long as they remember the stage version came first and FOX was trying to make “Grease Live” their own.