Increasingly in the USA, networks are broadcasting live musicals. They seem to be bringing in generally good reviews and ratings boosts, however, last night’s ‘Grease: Live’ took everything to a whole new level.
Simply put, the show was electrifying; an absolute knockout.
The shining star of the evening was Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo who utterly embodied the mantra ‘the show must go on’. Hudgens tweeted on the morning of the performance that her father, Greg Hudgens, had died as a result of stage 4 cancer. With absolute professionalism and total fearlessness, she stole the show in dedication to her late father. Her version of ‘There are worse things I could do’ was spine-tingling and poignant. She offered a real layer of vulnerability to the otherwise outspoken and brazen Rizzo with enough conviction to make even the coldest heart warm.
As Sandy, Julianne Hough offers a fresh interpretation of the character made so famous by Olivia Newton John in the movie of Grease (1978). Hough’s ‘Sandy’ is sassy and sweet, but not overly sickly, and most importantly she’s relatable. You totally believe this story of a young woman falling for the bad boy and feeling betrayed, but then wanting to bounce back. I have read many comments of the film which suggest Sandy has to totally compromise herself and become a leather-clad maneater in order to win Danny back, but this version shows both Sandy and Danny in equal measure, making mistakes and in turn, changes in order to win the other back. It’s quite sweet really!
Choreographer Zach Woodlee gave Hough plenty of chances to showcase her fantastic dancing skills in a series of thrilling sequences involving cheerleading, rock and roll, and of course, the legendary hand jive which was brought into the 21st century with outstanding new choreography.
By Hough’s side as Danny Zuko was Broadway star, Aaron ‘scene-stealer’ Tveit. Travolta was utterly iconic in this role and I feared Tveit would not be able to match-up, however, I could not have been more wrong. He was foot and note perfect from start to finish. His voice was ideal for this role and he delivered several outstanding performances throughout the evening, but the winner forme was ‘Greased Lightening’. The choreography in harmony with the incredible set designs from Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ set designer David Korins and every single T-Bird giving every ounce of energy possible made this a real highlight of the night.
Things just kept getting better. ‘Born To Hand Jive’ was such a huge number and was made even bigger through the live audience filling the auditorium. The energy was palpable and the atmosphere was electric; it was the pinnacle example of how big dance sequences should be done.
The entire cast was noteworthy and you’re sure to see lots of familiar faces from both stage and screen. The Pink Ladies all shared fantastic chemistry and genuine friendship was very plain to see. In particular, Keke Palmer as the promiscuous Marty Maraschino knocked ‘Freddy My Love’ out of the park. She showed real maturity in her voice and made Marty licentious, but still very likeable.
From the T-Birds, Jordan Fisher as Doody, melted hearts everywhere with a beautifully soft version of ‘Those Magic Changes’ which concluded with a beautiful harmony between him and Tveit. Special mention to the original ‘Frenchie’, Didi Conn as Vi who was greeted with rapturous applause and she yet again bowled us over with her effortless wit and charm.
This broadcast should go down as a definitive moment in musical television history. It was sensational. You’ll find everything you loved about the film in this performance, as well as very theatrical moments inspired by the Broadway and West End productions which have been seen and loved by so many. If you’re a fan of musical theatre, you cannot afford to miss this. It is a master-class in live performance.
Grease is the word!
Review by Harriet Langdown
‘Grease: Live’ will be broadcast in the UK on February 3rd on ITV2 at 8:00pm.