While it’s clear that live TV musicals have become a popular dart board for haters, there are plenty of incredible feats to praise in FOX’s Grease Live. As the new Danny (you might call him Aaron Tveit) told AOL BUILD, “They’re shooting and telling it in a very different way.” He couldn’t be more correct, with the show’s team working over two years to bring the intricate production to life. The result this past Sunday was a unique melding of the Broadway and film adaptations, with several big changes, but boy were those magic changes (see what I did there?).
Beating a huge storm, technical difficulties and one wild golf cart bump, Grease Live was a charming and extraordinary accomplishment that tackled several “firsts” for a live TV musical. Here are four reasons why it was so impressive:
1. THE SETS
“FOX was like – let’s push it even further,” Carlos PenaVega (Kenickie) told AOL BUILD. “We’re literally on the Warner Bros lot… we have two sound stages, we have a back lot, we’re shooting outdoors, we’re shooting indoors, our sets are four walled, we have audience members inside the sets with us… it’s crazy! We’re creating something brand new and fresh.”
The show built extremely realistic sets and (fun fact) featured iconic TV sets from Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars and Fuller House.
2. THE CINEMATIC BEAUTY
The audio went out during a good chunk of “Born to Hand Jive,” but it was almost okay. Grease Live was so visually fulfilling that losing the sound for a bit didn’t even matter. It was a feast for the eyes no matter what.
From Rydell High’s colorful gymnasium to the fiery lit hallways that Jessie J strutted through, every corner of the Warner Bros. lot was decked out. Overall, the show had a cinematic feel that none of the other live TV musicals have mastered. The drag race scene stood out utilizing lighting, smart camera angles and rear-projection. And just when it seemed like Grease had no more bells and whistles to sound, “We Go Together” happened. With this number came an entire carnival. Yep. The legendary film finale was recreated – ferris wheel and all. Kudos to the Director, Thomas Kail.
Not to mention that this was all done during a rainstorm, and yet didn’t look one bit dreary. Of course, the consistent beauty is in large part due to the costumes…
3. THE COSTUMES
Costume designer William Ivey Long payed homage to the original film’s look while, infusing his own vision. The result was 1950’s style costumes that felt like they belonged on each character.
The actors managed to effectively pull off numerous costume changes (shout-out to all the dressers! – the clothes don’t put on themselves, people). During “Freddy My Love” Keke Palmer (Marty) tapped into her Broadway quick change skills by discretely slipping into a shimmering red dress while on camera. It was pretty jaw-dropping.
4. THE PERFORMANCES
Aesthetics aside, the most vital part is always the players because they are what translates the story and all other aspects to the audience. First and foremost, bringing back Didi Conn (Original Frenchy) and Barry Pearl (Original Doody) was sheer brilliance. While every single performer in Grease Live was amusing, there were obvious standouts. Subjectively speaking, Julianne Hough (Sandy) and Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo) stole the show.
Julianne, an obvious choice to step into Olivia Newton John’s red pumps, was impressive across the board. Hough is the definition of a triple threat – singing, acting and dancing in a stunning fashion while consistently hitting her mark both for the lighting and the camera.
Vanessa Hudgens, not an obvious pick for Rizzo, proved to be the ultimate professional. She provided a complex and heart-wrenching depiction of the character, just hours after learning of her father’s passing. This was a life defining performance for the talent and a sole reason for viewers to re-watch the telecast.
In all, the most impressive occurrence was that the spectacle ended right on time. On AOL BUILD Julianne Hough used two words to credit the production’s magic by squealing – “It’s GREASE!”
And as over 12 million viewers learned – Grease is the word.
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