Born To Handjive: Grease Live

Grease Live

I liked a lot about Grease Live, a lot of it baffled me. But the good 100% outweighed the bad, so let’s start there.

  • Vanessa Hudgens. I was very skeptical about her. But she SLAYED as Rizzo, Mike and I were slackjawed through her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” The power of her performance was only amplified by the fact that her father died yesterday morning. Pushing through that kind of pain is incredible.
  • Aaron Tveit, who gave Danny Zuko a sense of humor and an awkward charm that I’ve never seen. There’s only one Travolta, but that didn’t matter here.
  • The direction. By using television as a medium rather than just filming a stage show, and melding the stage and screen version of Grease they created something entirely new. It was exciting and vital and interesting.
  • “Freddy My Love” and “Those Magic Changes” made the cut! I was SO GLAD. “Those Magic Changes” is my favorite song from Grease,  and I’ve always hated it’s exclusion from the movie version. I did miss “Shakin At The High School Hop,” but I get the desire to put the more well known “Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay.” And THANK GOD they went with “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” and “Sandy (Baby),” over “It’s Raining On Prom Night” and “Alone At The Drive In,” which have not aged well.
  • The dancing, costumes and sets, which were stunning. Also wigs. I loved the wigs. They all looked great.
  • Color blind casting! I love that theater does this. A hispanic Rizzo, a black Marti, and countless ensemble members of color. Bless you, Grease Live.  (Also, Keke Palmer, as Marti, more of that please. She was a delight!)
  • Boyz II Men as “The Teen Angels.” “Beauty School Dropout” can, if done poorly can slow a production of Grease to a crawl. Instead, they reinvented it, delivered a killer version of the song and kept me engaged.

Here are the less fun things.

  • Grease is not my favorite musical. I like it. I’ve never loved it. The songs are impossible to resist, but the book has always left me cold. I was in it in high school though and that gives me warm feelings towards a lot of the stuff. It was nice to think about my friends, but it still doesn’t change the more cringey/corny bits of a script I’ve never loved.
  • Julianne Hough. I am a huge fan of hers, and she just, didn’t deliver. Sandy is something of a blank slate, and it’s up to the actress portraying her to give her any sense of a personality and Hough just didn’t. It was wonderful to see her dance again though.
  • The dead studio audience. I was so excited that they were using an audience, but they barely reacted. It was strange, but at least they had applause after the dancing.
  • Mario Lopez’s weird hosting. It didn’t make sense. I loved him playing Vince Fontaine, I thought he was perfect for the part, but the interstitials were just confusing.
  • New Frenchy song. I get that Frenchy doesn’t really get a musical moment, and you have Carly Rae Jepsen, but the song wasn’t good, and felt too contemporary, and just didn’t fit.

Overall I’d say it was great. It was definitely better than Peter Pan or The Sound Of Music, but not as explosive and interesting (In My Opinion) as The Wiz. But I think that it made much better use of it’s medium than any of the others and live audience (even a fairly dead one) is better than awkward silence and cut to commercials. I hope that these events keep growing and learning, because I enjoy them quite a bit.

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