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.