When FOX first announced that they, too, would be joining the now time-honoured tradition of performing a live-musical to broadcast into the homes of millions on January 31, 2016, thus attempting to turn a new generation into Broadway babies, I had several initial reactions - all of which I had before watching the performance.
Firstly, they were doing Grease, using elements from both the 1978 film and the original Broadway show. While it is “the word,” all I could think about was all of the editing of the swears, inneuendos, and overall sexually-charged connotations (that pretty much make the show) that would have to happen to make the performance appropriate for all audiences - Have fun, parents, talking to your kids about pregnancy scares!
Secondly, they announced the cast: Dancing with the Stars-veteran turned Nicholas-Sparks-muse Julianne Hough as Sandy, über-perfect man and my future husband - not that he knows yet - Aaron Tveit as Danny, High School Musical-alum and fresh from a successful Broadway run Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Scream Queens actress Keke Palmer as Marty, and singer Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy, who is the only character that doesn’t sing in the whole show. Makes perfect sense. A+.
So anyways, it started, and here is where I will unpack my thoughts on the mostly highs (and some lows) of the 3 hour show. If you have no knowledge of the story of Grease this will make absolutely no sense to you, as my thoughts are as sporadic as those lighting issues were (I'll be here all week, folks!).
A green screen ocean behind Sandy and Danny. Bye.
Then, Jessie J bursts through the set of 30 Rock with the camera ease of Birdman tracking her every move as she sang "Grease (is the word)". She somehow ended up outside in the rain with fans screaming like this was The Beatles at Shea Stadium.
The live audience was a truly terrible idea. They were overly loud, or making no noise at all and staring blankly into the camera. It was a seriously awful decision that affected the entire show. This is the last I will complain about that nonsense, because I genuinely enjoyed most of this with minimal hate.
So we arrive at Rydell High and are introduced to the lead cast, the T-birds and the Pink Ladies, as well as supporting characters like cheerleader Patty Simcox and Principal McGee - Ana Gasteyer killed this role. The sets were actually really fantastic, but the costumes were a little too close to the ones from the movie not to compare the acting performances, which were varied.
"Summer Lovin'" was fun enough. Aaron Tveit pelvic thrusting is pretty much the most important thing in my life at this point, but Julianne Hough's singing is just not the most spectacular. The moment was ruined when Mario Lopez showed up to host the musical? What? It was bizarre and unwarranted. I know when I see a Broadway show, I need a host to come out and comment on the action. I screamed at my TV with more expletives than The Wolf of Wall Street every time he showed up.
We are back and Sandy is auditioning for the cheerleading squad, which resembles participating in the Hunger Games. It was a 200-hour long scene, which I am assuming served to show that Julianne Hough can dance, and thus has some talents.
The sleepover scene then proved that Keke Palmer is a star and a national treasure. Having her sing "Freddy My Love" at a USO was brilliance. Kether Donahue crushed it as Jan.
Vanessa Hudgens was majorly fabulous in "Sandra Dee" as she was in the whole thing, especially considering she just lost her father to Stage 4 cancer Saturday night. Her performance was so amazing. All of the Pink Ladies are really great, actually.
So then Rizzo had unprotected sex. This is not a family show.
"Greased Lightnin'" is a song about sex. Again, not a family show.
"Those Magic Changes" is my favorite song from this whole show and Doody (Jordan Fisher) had a gorgeous, gorgeous voice and made the world fall in love with him. Also, Aaron Tveit is in tiny shorts and a tank top - I have died, bye cruel world.
It is only 8:15 and I have enjoyed too much of it to continue taking copious notes as I was. It is dragging a bit, but that's not to say it's bad. Just long. It is medium. It is the "Julianne Hough" of live-broadcast televised musicals.
"Beauty School Dropout" had too many riffs from Boyz II Men. It felt like a high school choir warm-up.
It is the National Band Stand dance! With more Birdman quality camera work! And Joe Jonas! And blank, clapping audience members in the bleachers! And Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine! Anarchy!
Then it was time for the dance competition and it was the most thrilling 5 minutes of my entire life. We were all born to hand jive!
I am hopelessly devoted to Sandy's endless array of cardigans and perfect nude lip color.
Sandy and Danny are at the drive-in - apparently over their fight somehow? - and he elbows her in the boob, then tries to molest her. Wholesome family television! Aaron Tveit sings and the world weeps at the beauty.
Vanessa Hudgens slayed "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." Slayed, slayed, slayed.
They are racing cars! It is Fast and Furious 12: Change Your Appearance to Please a Man.
It is the end-of-year carnival, assuming these people went to class and are graduating. Rizzo got her period, Danny is wearing a letterman sweater, and Sandy is sexy! Change yourself for a man and you get to sing with him at the senior carnival: a wonderful message for our youth.
They all took golf carts to an entire outside carnival. This is all too amazing; I am crying.
Overall, this was crazy impressive, technically speaking. Minus a couple snarky remarks (because I am me), it was really energetic, fun, and delightful. Keke Palmer is the star we all deserve, Vanessa Hudgens gave a gorgeous performance, and Aaron Tveit is attractive (in case that point hasn't been made utterly clear). I hope FOX picks it up for a full season.
Images obtained from: