Forgive me, this doesn’t quite fit into book review or theatre review, but I just had to get out all my feelings about this show. I think rather than doing a traditional, wordy review, I’m going to make a list of what worked and what didn’t – the highs and lows if you will.
- Didi Conn
Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the 1978 movie, was an absolute genius cameo move. She was a ball of sunshine then and she’s a ray of light now. She had the part of Vi down, and I’ve always thought Vi was a little like a guardian angel to Frenchy, so seeing her interact with Carly Rae Jepson was a lovely passing of the torch moment. Plus her cute little dance at curtain call was adorable.
- The cinematography
Those sweeping shots, the way the camera moved effortlessly through the sets and around the actors: this was a very cleverly done production that didn’t feel jerky or uncomfortable. Though the performance was live it could have very easily been pre-recorded as the camera work made it feel natural and effortless.
- The choreography
Zach Woodlee is an angel. He was absolutely spot on throughout, I repeatedly noticed the dancers and the wonderful choreography, particularly in Summer Nights and You’re the One that I Want. I found myself wondering for songs that aren’t dance heavy, who is responsible for how an actor moves throughout it? The choreographer or the director? Does anyone know?
Regardless, Zach, you’re a star, keep doing what you’re doing.
- Putting back in ‘Those Magic Changes’
I love this song! I love lots of the songs used for the National Bandstand, like Raining on Prom Night. And putting this back in the mix was a great addition and a wonderful opportunity to let Jordan Fisher (as Doody) shine – the harmonies between him and Aaron Tveit (Danny) were simply stunning.
- Keeping it more similar to the movie
I think it’s fair to say that much of the audience of Grease: Live will probably be more familiar with the movie than the musical, so keeping it more similar to the film was a great touch that will definitely have stopped people saying, ‘Wait… why is We Go Together in a diner in the middle of the show??’
- Jessie J singing Grease as an introduction
It was like a pre-curtain call that made us really feel part of the production even when you’re sat at home watching it on your laptop. It was a really fantastic introduction and allowed Jessie to use her more soulful voice.
- Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa is a hero and a wonderwoman for getting on with the show. Though she tragically lost her father to cancer mere hours before the show, she still performed and she performed the heck out of it. I was so sceptical about her playing Rizzo, because to me she’ll always be Gabriella, but she was all the right parts sassy and sensitive. Her There Are Worse Things I Could Do stole the show and was the highlight of the piece (I even teared up a little) and she really showed off her singing chops.
Credit also to Julianne Hough who managed to get the balance between Good Sandy and Sexy Sandy (when I didn’t think she would) and also hit the notes in all the right places; Carly Rae Jepson, who was a lot better than I thought she’d be; and Kether Donoghue who was charming and adorable as Jan.
- The transition between You’re The One That I Want and We Go Together
Such a great idea! The cast obviously had to move sets, but the singing and enthusiasm on the golf carts kept the party going. Though I have to wonder why they didn’t just do the whole of the end section outside?
- General production
I have to admit I didn’t sit through the whole of any of the other ‘Live!’ productions, but the ratings so far for Grease: Live seem preeetty good. And I think some credit to Fox’s success has to go to Glee. Fox obviously know how to produce a musical number and how to put on a show and their experience with Glee surely must have helped.
- Mario Lopez’s interludes
A little unnecessary and total broke the focus of the piece. It didn’t need interjections every so often and it definitely didn’t help when he had to play Vince Fontaine, as it was hard to distinguish Mario Lopez presenter from Mario Lopez actor. There was too much back and forth and it was just not needed.
- Keke Palmer
I just can’t. I’ve tried to like Keke, and shockingly some outlets are praising her as a highlight of the piece. She overacted terribly I thought, over enunciated and had a strange affected accent that was just plain odd and uncomfortable to hear. I loved the subtle insecurity of the 1978 movie Marty, and Keke’s Marty left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Her only high point was her song Freddy My Love, which indicates to me she should stick to singing not acting.
- The T-Birds
Okay, so not quite a low, just weaker than the Pink Ladies (except for Doody). And Aaron Tveit – who is undeniably extremely talented, but he’s just too old to be playing Danny these days and looked out of place against how young some of the others looked, like Jordan Fisher. The others all sort of blended into one for me and weren’t really gelling. I didn’t believe in their friendship as much as the Pink Ladies. Also, it got really confusing for me because Andrew Call (Sonny) seriously reminded me of Jeff Conaway (RIP) so I kept getting confused and thinking he was Kenickie.
- Technical glitches
Totally understandable in a live production, but the sound cutting out in the middle of Born to Hand Jive did make me stop for a moment.
- Julianne’s dancing talent
Again, this really isn’t a low at all, but Julianne Hough is so wonderfully talented at dancing that she almost outshone Aaron Tveit and pulled focus at the dance. When you love dancing it’s hard to keep a smile off your face which meant she was pulled out of the sweet, nervous Sandy character.
- The additional song
Finally, the additional song. It didn’t fit at all. It sounded like a pop song and would sound great on Carly Rae Jepson’s new album, but not in Grease. It totally didn’t fit with the 50s vibe and it was actually the only moment I really wanted to skip ahead.
So there’s my review. I would definitely give the show a solid 8.5/10 and was pleasantly surprised by it all. In some ways you expect a live performance to be a car crash, and this, this was greased lightening.