Grease: Live! had a lot of expectations to live up to. Not only is it the most popular musical to be tackled for live TV yet, but it premiered just weeks after NBC seemed to finally find its stride with The Wiz: Live! However, with a star-studded cast and Broadway's most in-demand director Tommy Kail (Hamilton) behind the camera, they seemed more than up for the challenge.
The smartest thing Grease: Live! did was realize that most people at home would have the classic John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John film in their heads. Thus, the three-hour show was more like a live staging of the movie rather than the musical, which greatly upped the stakes. Were they able to pull it off? We broke down the show by its hits and misses. See what they nailed and what missed the mark.
HIT: The opening is the word
Grease: Live! introduced new audiences to the musical with a swift opening by Jessie J (and featuring Boyz II Men as the Teen Angels), which expertly reminded everyone of the scale of this production while showing off all the major players. Don't forget they did it in the rain too. Nice touch, guys.
MISS: Cheerleading tryouts for the bottom of the pyramid
Did you know that Julianne Hough is a professional dancer? Here's a cheerleader routine with Sandy to remind you that she's got some serious gymnastic moves... but it doesn't serve any other real purpose (and she showed off her fancy footwork at the school dance later on). It added a few minutes to the production that could have been condensed or used for another song.
MISS: Mario Lopez can't stop hosting
Mario Lopez stepped in as Grease: Live!'s Vince Fontaine, but the Saved by the Bell alum pulled double duty as a behind-the-scenes bumper host as well. Not only did it eat up time, but did anyone need the hashtag reminder? Get back to the show!
HIT: "Freddy, My Love," we love you
A few of the stage numbers made it into Grease: Live! Keke Palmer, as Marty, turned "Freddy, My Love" into a glittery showstopper (and we're still trying to figure out the mechanics of the transition from Pink Lady sleepover to USO stage). "Those Magic Changes" was also a magic moment thanks to the debut of Aaron Tveit's biceps and short shorts.
MISS: Frenchy needed an angel, but we didn't
If you're going to cast a pop star in your musical production, it makes sense you'd give her an original number to sing. Props for giving Carly Rae Jepsen's Frenchy a ballad — "All I Need Is an Angel" — that showed off her real vocal prowess, but it felt too modern to fit in with the rest of the Grease landscape. A cool single for her next album? Sure. A new Grease classic? Not really.
HIT: The hand jive was LIVE
The production mimicked the iconic school dance scene from the movie almost shot for shot, and definitely move for move. Every person involved with that scene was dancing his or her butt off and it was a straight up wonder to watch. It wins the MVP scene of the whole production.
MISS: Hopelessly devoted to static
Was that the weather or a loose wire? A loud buzzing sound totally sucked the audience — at least the one at home — out of the experience and rudely interrupted Hough's big moment and Sandy's iconic ballad.
HIT: Vanessa Hudgens' Rizzo was the best thing she could do
VanessaHudgens perhaps had the hardest job in making her Rizzo live up to Stockard Channing's portrayal. Not only did Hudgens commit to the Rizzo chutzpah, but knowing that she was nailing the performance just hours after losing her father made it that much more commendable. We're still mopping up tears after "There are Worse Things I Could Do." Fox dedicated the show in her father Greg's memory.
MISS: Thunder Road was more like Low-Rumbling Dirt Path
While the Spring Dance lived up to expectations, the Greased Lightning race on Thunder Road left a lot to be desired. To be fair, where would you really street race live on the Warner Bros. lot? It was a nice effort, but didn't quite cross the finish line.
HIT: All hail Tommy Kail
Hats must be tipped to master director Tommy Kail, whose vision for Grease: Live! upped the standard for all live TV musicals from here on out. The show successfully managed to combine all the nostalgic elements of Grease that everyone expected while creating a new experience. The set changes and scale of what they were able to accomplish — in a rainstorm no less — were incredibly impressive.Grease is the word, and ratings most likely will be too. This wasn't a show — it was a spectacle and the applause was very much deserved.
What did you think of the show?
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