The Coincidental Critic

Exploring the art of storytelling.

Grease Live: It was Electrifying!

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Introduction

I am still blown away by how amazing this production was.  The musical “Grease” was a huge feat to tackle.  The production team knew that their audience would be comparing this version to the original film.  While I was excited for “Grease: Live,” I was skeptical.  I had yet to be dazzled by a live TV musical, and I worried that “Grease” would fall short.  But I was completely wrong.  The amazing cast and crew of “Grease: Live” delivered and made their production stand on its own.

 

The Cast

“Grease: Live” had a good balance of stars and newcomers.  There were even some musical guests: Jessie J, Boys II Men, and Joe Jonas.  I love that they casted Didi Conn (the original Frenchy) and Barry Pearl (the original Doody).  It increased my nostalgia.

“Grease: Live” was superbly casted.  Each actor perfectly embodied his/her character.  Also, I applaud the casting directors for the diversity of the cast.

Every actor delivered.  The performances from all involved (major characters, minor characters, and the ensemble) were top notch.  The acting, vocals, and dancing were all outstanding.  The Pink Ladies and the T-Birds had amazing chemistry with one another.

In particular, Elle McLemore (Patty Simcox) stole every scene she was in.  She made the character frantic, yet lovable.

I need to make a special shout out to Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo).  She really dove into her character and fully embodied Rizzo with emotion and poise.  I am even more impressed with how well she performed only hours after her father’s passing.  She made her father proud.

“Grease: Live” had a huge cast including a full ensemble.  The ensemble brought life to the production, making it more realistic and exciting.

I would argue that one of the most important cast members in “Grease: Live” was the live audience.  They filled the sets and added energy to every scene.  I loved hearing the applause after each musical number.

The Music

The rendition of “Those Magic Changes” in “Grease: Live” is now my favorite version of that song.  Jordan Fisher (Doody) has one of the best voices I have ever heard, and he made this song so soothing to the ears.  I could listen to him sing all day long.  We’re definitely going to be seeing a lot more of him.

The highlight of Julianne Hough’s (Sandy) performance was “Hopelessly Devoted.”  I have never heard her sing so powerfully before.  It was a beautiful and captivating performance.  She is one incredibly talented woman.

The Book

I forgot how good the writing is in this musical.  It’s filled was some great, memorable lines, such as when Principal McGee said, “Nothing makes a cheerleader more nervous than when she’s late.”

My favorite lines in “Grease: Live” were the ones that were meta.  When Principal McGee and Blanche first met with Vince Fontaine’s producer, Mr. Weaver, Blanche said, “A live broadcast; that’s so exciting…but what if something goes wrong?”  Later on in that same scene, Principal McGee said, “Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain.”  It just so happened to be raining during the live production.

A lot of fans were upset when Sandy didn’t sing “Hopelessly Devoted” after the sleepover scene.  Fortunately, they got what they wanted after the dance scene.  I liked how the production team moved this song to later in the show.  It worked very well with the storyline and strengthened the character development.

The Director

This production would not have been as successful without the masterful direction of Thomas Kail.  His innate talent and attention to details were evident in the production.

At the start of the show, we followed Jessie J as she walked us through the sound stages, dressing rooms, and outdoor lot, showing us just how big this was going to be.  It gave us a sneak peek at how much work had gone into this production.  I love how Kail decided to take us behind the scenes, making us feel even more connected to the show.

The camerawork throughout “Grease: Live” was impressive.  I couldn’t even being to imagine how many cameras were used.  For the dance scene, we were able to see the whole gym from so many different angles.  The blocking and camera shots were perfectly timed.

Another note on the dance scene: I loved how we entered the scene behind Patty and Eugene.  Outside the gym, it seemed calm and quiet.  Then, we entered the dance like we were one of the attendees.  It was an exciting way to enter the lively scene.  I was blown away by the energy.

I love how Kail directed Frenchy’s bedroom scene.  Towards the end of the scene, the T-Birds showed up outside Frenchy’s window.  The camera cut between the girls looking out the window and the boys down below.  Being in a sound stage, the bedroom could not have actually been above the car, but the way it was filmed, it created this illusion.

Another wonderfully directed scene was the racing scene.  I had wondered how they would show this on a sound stage on live TV.  Apparently, Kail had more magic up his sleeve.  Using lighting and smoke, the crew created the illusion that the vehicles were moving.  Adding to this, the actors made it even more believable.  It looked like they were really putting in effort and pressing on the pedals.

The Set

The sets in “Grease: Live” were breathtaking.  They were incredibly elaborate like any set one would see on television or in a film.  Each set was filled with hundreds of props, making these locations even more realistic.  I felt like we were really in a high school hallway, a girl’s bedroom, a high school gym…

I was really impressed with the drive-in movie theater set.  Even though it was filmed on a sound stage, it looked like a true drive-in theater.  Of course, there were the vintage cars, the snack bar, the screen, and speakers.  But to add to that, there was an actual projection light, lights on the walls that resembled stars, and what looked like leaves on the ground.  This set was so detailed.

I was really impressed with how the set designers created the diner/”Beauty School Dropout” set.  Right before our eyes, the diner transformed into Frenchy’s fantasy.  It was almost unrecognizable.  This was expertly designed and executed.

Those Magic Quick Changes

I’m still trying to figure out how the cast and crew pulled off all of those quick changes.  It seemed like there was quick change in almost every scene.  And each time, it was like magic.

During “Freddie My Love,” Marty literally changed her wardrobe twice while the camera was still on her!

Even Kenickie’s car had a quick change.  At the start of “Greased Lightning,” it was grey and beat-up.  The camera panned away for what only felt like ten seconds, and then suddenly, the car was colorful and shiny.

There were quick changes like these throughout the show.  Some were costume changes while others were set changes.  The cast and crew were magicians.

The Choreography

The choreography throughout the whole show was amazing, especially in the big musical numbers.  Zach Woodley’s choreography was both intricate and representative of the time.  And the actors executed it perfectly.

My favorite choreography was in “Greased Lightning.”  It was truly electrifying.  I couldn’t look away!

 

The Big Finale

When we got back from the final commercial break, Principal McGee announced that it was the last day of school.  Throughout the scene, Blanche was sobbing.  At the end of her announcement, Principal McGee joined in.  I totally felt what they were feeling.  I knew the end was coming, but I didn’t want it to end.

The finale started in the gym and ended outside at an actual carnival.  At the start of “We Go Together,” we watched the cast travel on golf carts from the indoor sound stage to the outdoor lot.  What was waiting for them was a whole carnival and the whole live audience.  It was so spectacular.  You could tell that each and every cast member was in heaven as they danced and sang their final song.

They even did a curtain call which made me so happy.  The actors deserved the recognition.

My One Minor Criticism

I did not like Sandy’s entrance in the show after “Grease (Is The Word).”  She just kind of stumbled into the school hallway and started speaking.  At first, I couldn’t tell who she was talking to.  Then, Frenchy responded to her.  The blocking was a bit off in this scene.  Sandy should have entered before starting her lines so that it made more sense.  This could have easily been a timing or cue error.

Conclusion

“Grease: Live” was such an amazing feat.  It was successful because every single person involved put in 110%.  It was obvious that they worked so tirelessly to give their absolute best performance.

I can’t believe this show was live.  The directing and camerawork were so detailed and well executed that I kept forgetting I was watching a live show.  That made all of this ten times more impressive.

I wish I could have been a part of this show.  It looked like everyone involved was having the time of their lives.

“Grease: Live” went above and beyond my expectations.  I’m completely blown away by how spectacular it was and how perfectly executed it was.  I’ve already downloaded the soundtrack (even though I have the original movie soundtrack).  And I plan to watch this multiple times.  This particular production has the potential to become a classic.

Grease is the word.

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