‘Grease: Live!’ on Fox brought the iconic musical to live television with an all-star cast including Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, Vanessa Hudgens, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jessie J and others. As the show played out, social media and TV critics alike weighing in. And the verdict? See a roundup of reviews and video highlights right here!
Following the trend set by rival network NBC — most recently with ‘The Wiz Live!’ and previously with ‘Peter Pan Live’ and ‘The Sound of Music Live’ — the Fox network brings us an iconic musical as a live television performance. Yes, as the cliche goes, everything old is new again. In the 1950s such live television was just the order of the day and now more than fifty years later it’s greeted with fanfare and excitement. Not to mention the instantaneous reactions on social media.
Another 1970s classic gets teleported to the 2010s. The 1978 movie ‘Grease’ based on the original 1971 Broadway musical made stars of Olivia Newton-John portraying Sandy and John Travolta portraying bad by Danny Zuko and gave us indelible pop culture images. It’s a hard act to follow to say the least.
Taking on those characters this time around we had a contemporary trio of Julianne Hough as Sandy and Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuk. Rounding out the trio of principal characters, was Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo the character that Stockard Channing brought to life in the original movie.
And the supporting cast was peppered with many stars including Carly Rae Jepsen, Jessie J, Boyz II Men, Joe Jonas and his new band DNCE among others.
Yes, there was much the excitement and anticipation of the live performance — #GreaseLive was trending hours ahead of timeon Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But in the midst of jubilation, Hudgens Tweeted that her father had just died of stage 4 cancer, and in a follow-up Tweet she said, “Tonight, I do the show in his honor.”
And the show did go on. Unlike NBC’s live musicals, ‘Grease Live!’ had a studio audience and perhaps gave this more of a familiar vibe of sitcoms recorded with live audiences. It was a notable departure from a new tradition, such as we’re witnessing with live television. And also notable, the breaking of the fourth wall, as the musical traversed multiple sets, both indoors and outdoors (yes, even with the threat of rain!) and that gave us a bit of a meta-musical experience.
And of course, there’s the social media audience that’s always vocal offering instant analysis, applause, criticism, comparisons, and endless memes and gifs.
Now that this live event is one for replays and viral video perpetuity television critics are having their say. Here’s a roundup.
“…. Grease is the word, and the word is — OK. If you’re cataloguing why things seemed somehow both off and on Sunday with Fox’s musical Grease: Live! (** 1/2 out of four), you can start with the use of that nonsensical opening title song, written for the movie and emblematic of the progressive dumbing-down of the material. A Broadway musical that originally spoofed our rose-tinted-glasses view of the ‘50s has turned into a nostalgic wallow, leaving the show with an odd mix of tones — and in this particular version, a book that sometimes seemed to get lost between songs and inside jokes…..” USA Today
“….The first few minutes of Grease Live! did take some getting used to, as far as the innate cheap feeling (we’re talking visually here) that usually accompanies live, scripted TV. But director Thomas Kail (Broadway’s recent smash hit, Hamilton) was able to give the entire show the energy and pace it needed to sustain a three-hour run time, and Grease Live! got better and better as it went along. …” IGN
“….From the opening, it was clear the game had indeed been changed from the live format audiences are used to. That anything-can-happen excitement was apparent during the opening sequence as Jessie J paraded through the Fox lots — inside and out — singing the theme song. In one little number she proved a rainstorm wasn’t going to quell the production values or overall vibe. ….” The Wrap
“….Even El Niño couldn’t stop Fox’s Grease Live from hand jiving its way into our hearts. The three-hour broadcast, which aired Sunday night, marked Fox’s memorable foray into the televised live musical world. Outstanding performances from an all-star cast, coupled with impressive behind-the-scenes camerawork, helped the musical shine, despite gloomy weather. ….” — Mashable
“….So please, don’t call it blasphemy that — at least for tonight — John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are as far from my brain (and my heart) as Bernie Sanders is from a Rick Santorum endorsement.
To put it another way, Aaron Tveit’s Danny Zuko, Julianne Hough’s Sandy and (perhaps most of all) Vanessa Hudgens’ Rizzo made Fox’s three-hour production faster, funnier, sweeter and more instantly iconic than it was possible to imagine…..” — TV Line
“….“Grease Live!” won’t make anyone forget the original film any time soon, but that wasn’t the point. The idea was to cook up a must-see event that got attention on social media and delivered a crisply executed and energetic final product. Thanks to exceptional work from director Thomas Kail and several sterling supporting performances, much of “Grease Live!” was as sweet and tasty as root beer float…..” — Variety
“….But Grease: Live defied modesty, transcended nostalgia, served up cheese as a ten-course gourmet meal. Coming so soon after the triumph of The Wiz Live!, it banished once and for all any easy notions of hatewatching and trainwreckitude. It was an old-fashioned show and a newfangled playful meta-show: Marvel at how the cafeteria was the gym and the carnival, how the “National Bandstand” sequence was both a loving homage to long-ago talent shows and a this-is-how-it’s-done improvement on our modern reality competitions. In this moment overrun with must-see TV events, Grease wasn’t just live. It was alive….” — Entertainment Weekly
“….The “Grease” that the director Thomas Kail (of Broadway’s “Hamilton”) served up was cinematic, impressively so, with its countless cameras, its tracking shots, its zooms, its galloping from soundstage to soundstage. Executing such a production live must have required an unbelievable amount of coordination and technical expertise. But, despite the presence of a live audience for parts of it, the experience for viewers wasn’t remotely theater. Good theater is spine-tingling; “Grease: Live!” was spectacle. ….” — The New York Times
Fox has released official video of the musical performances on YouTube and you can watch the highlights including ‘Grease (Is the Word)’ and ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Greased Lightning’ and more below!
Pictures: PR Photos