Confession time (yes, it’s time for another one of those): Grease is one on my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. Or maybe not so guilty, after all.
I mean, what’s not to love? It’s the right level of cheesy, with amazing retro costumes, fun dance routines and timeless songs. It’s got a young John Travolta and Olivia Newton John! And honestly, have you heard Rizzo’s solo?
Better yet, please don’t deny having reenacted the final dance sequence to the sound of ‘You’re the one that I want’ at a school party (or your living room). Anyone who says he doesn’t like Grease is either lying or just plain heartless as far as I’m concerned.
By the way, fun fact: Grease was released the year I was born.
Another fun fact: when I was a kid, before I watched the film and saw the correct spelling of the title, I thought it was about Greece and got super excited. Even though I soon discovered there was nothing Greek about the movie, I was definitely not disappointed.
I’ve re-watched the movie plenty of times over the years, to the point where I know every line and can sing along to every musical number, so the idea of a live broadcast of the remake had me a bit dubious. Nothing could compare with the original, after all.
Seriously, how amazing was Grease: Live? It perfectly captured the feel of the original movie, even improved on it in some aspects, and actually managed to bring every element together cohesively even though the intricate production involved so many varying sets, costume changes and what I imagine was the result of long, grueling hours of rehearsals for everyone involved.
It also succeeded where every movie de facto fails, as the medium isn’t conducive to making the audience privy of backstage action: it gave us a unique behind the scenes look, and thus drove the point home even more. This was one huge undertaking, and the director absolutely nailed it.
There’s really no point in comparing the leads to Travolta and Newton-John. As standalone performances, Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough’s depiction of Danny and Sandy were as close to perfect as they could be. Okay, so maybe their chemistry wasn’t all there during their speaking scenes, but their singing and dancing was undeniably superb. Hough’s cheerleader tryout was phenomenal, and Tveit absolutely owned the stage in every scene.
But perhaps the character who stole the show, more so in this rendition than the original movie, was Vanessa Hudgens’ Rizzo. Both her singing performance and her delivery were spot on, as were – surprisingly – Carly Rae Jepsen’s. Keke Palmer was stunning, and I can’t find serious fault with any one performance in the entire production, but Rizzo won it, hands down.
What was perhaps even more impressive about Grease: Live was the balance it achieved. It stayed true to the feel of the late 50’s (as portrayed in a late 70’s movie) without looking old-timey; it adjusted each scene to the live format without compromising the original dialogue and choreography.
So what there were a few glitches here and there? Or if Mario Lopez’ commentary was largely unnecessary? Or if some of the jokes landed somewhat flat? Would you be rolling on the floor laughing if a new group of actors performed, say, your favorite Friends scenes today? Probably not. That’s not to say the scenes didn’t ellicit laughs: even if some of the jokes flew over the audience’s heads, several random lines drew more than a few chuckles, thanks to the actors’ comedic timing.
But all of this is incidental. The huge, indubitable accomplishment of Grease: Live was that it was live. Live, people. An impeccable theatrical performance on live television, in front of a live audience, utilizing sets that are massive in scale compared to any theater, and all of it captured perfectly by cameras for the viewer at home, without ever appearing awkward or in any way less than the spectacle you’d expect.
It’s a rare thing for me to be impressed by something I’ve practically watched so many times before I can recite it by heart, but there you go.