The Periscope, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
Since I was five, I have always loved the Grease movie and the (totally) adorable love story behind it of the bad boy getting with the good girl. So when it was announced that FOX would be doing a rendition of it, it was immediately put on my calendar. A viewer of high expectations, Grease Live did the classic justice.
Shortly following The Wiz’s revived musical performance, Grease Live pushed the boundaries of television by featuring a live show for audiences to see that follows a well-known love story. On January 31st, Grease Live debuted on FOX, and did not disappoint. From what cast members hinted, audiences expected a true-to-the-plot story and soundtrack with a few modern twists, which is exactly what Grease Live delivered.
The performance first began with a opening performance by pop singer Jessie J singing “Grease” which stayed true to the original while featuring some of her well-known vocal runs.
One thing that worked well without conflict (surprisingly) was when she walked, danced, and sang throughout the show’s on location sets, ending the song in front of Rydell High School where the story takes place (additionally, props to the phenomenal camera man who kept the entire footage flawlessly smooth!)
In fact, the camera work (which I feel is over-looked) was a huge key in why the play ran so smoothly. In fact, many times I forget the performance was live, as the transitions and videography was so incredible.
In regards to the characters, I felt for the most part they were very well chosen. Julianne Hough did an incredible rendition of Sandy Olsson, even getting praise from the original actress herself, Olivia Newton-John.
Although he did a great job, I was disappointed when seeing Aaron Tveit as the bad-boy Danny. Aaron simply looked too “young” and didn’t carry the bad boy “leader” role that the Thunder Birds were so infamously known for. However, he arguably made up for it with strong vocals and stellar dance performances.
A huge props to Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo), who performed flawlessly shortly after the passing of her father less than 24 hours before who was battling cancer.
One thing I wasn’t exactly a fan of was Carly Rae Jepson (who played Frenchie) and her solo “All I Need Is An Angel.” In fact, it distracted me and threw my off from expecting the classic “Beauty School Drop Out” (which was soon after performed by Boyz II Men).
Additionally, Mario Lopez’s role was rather confusing, playing the Vince Fontaine character. However, in the original, Vince was portrayed as much older than the students of Rydell High (which made his flirtatious ways even more controversial/humorous). Lopez, although in this 30’s, still obtains an un-aging baby face (which would most times be in his favor, but not in this case), which made his role less impactful.
Mario also served as the “back stage sneak peek” host during commercial break, which I felt sometimes ruined the feel of the show. Backstage intervals made me feel more as though I was watching a Super Bowl, and didn’t feature anything hugely significant, in my opinion.
One final critique was the live audiences on set during the play. Although a neat experience for them, it took away from the play on television as a viewer. Instead of watching Danny or Sandy perform, often times I was too busy looking at the girls in the crowd that sat awkwardly on the stands, wondering if they should sway back and fourth when serenade songs came on.
All in all, I absolutely loved the live rendition of such a loved classic movie. I tremendously appreciated that the directors decided to remain fairly true to the movie, yet while offering modern twists to keep the legacy alive. The play is one I would highly suggest for anyone (of all ages) to watch, and is expected to be available on DVD in the near future.
Photo Credit: The Periscope (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)