- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 10 February 2016
- Written by ALISON SILVERMAN | STAFF WRITER
On Jan. 31, millions of Americans tuned in to FOX to watch what was going to be either a hit or a miss. Grease Live, which aired Sunday and starred Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough as Danny and Sandy respectively, was just the push America needed to get their dancing shoes on.
The show, which was recorded live as a stage production in front of a studio audience, had its ups and downs. What stole the show, or should I say who, was not the leads themselves but the charming and cunning Betty Rizzo, played by Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame. Hudgens, who is best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the Disney Channel movies, does a total 180 here as Grease’s antagonist. Promiscuous and sultry are only two of the many words to describe her character and Hudgens did the role justice—especially under the pressing circumstances.
The news broke the morning of Grease Live that Hudgens’ father had passed away after a battle with cancer. All eyes were on Hudgens as America watched if she would crack under the pressure. Pressure, however, is not a word in either Hudgens’ or Rizzo’s vocabulary, and the 27-year-old performed the role without any hint of sadness. She shined in her heart-wrenching number, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” and made the crowd laugh in the earlier number, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” Hudgens swept everyone away.
Other members of Rizzo’s crew included Frenchy, Marty, and Jan, played by Carly Rae Jepsen, Keke Palmer, and newbie Kether Donohue, respectively. All of the Pink Ladies were accurately portrayed and were cast by FOX with the intention of giving the original characters a modern spin. Palmer as Marty was just the progressive twist Grease Live was going for, and with her sass and quick wit, Marty was a force to be reckoned with.
Jepsen, however, should stick to auto tune. The 29-year old sang a song just before the classic “Beauty School Dropout” (which was performed by Boys II Men) as an addition to the live production. However, Jepsen was flat and pitchy in the song and it did not really fit, especially being immediately before one of the best songs in the movie. Though her characterization as Frenchy was just as annoying as she is, she should stick to the computerized mess that is “Call Me Maybe.”
While the Pink Ladies were perfectly pink, the T-Birds were mostly bland. Aside from Tviet, the lead T-Bird, the man who stole the night was Jordan Fischer, the 21-year-old who starred as Doodie. Fischer, with his guitar in hand, performed a cover of “Those Magic Changes” off the original Grease soundtrack. Sighs of teen girls everywhere were heard as the next Bruno Mars might have been found. All eyes and ears are on Fischer as we await his next musical contribution.
While the ensemble cast had us putting our poodle skirts and leather jackets on, we cannot forget about Danny and Sandy. Their chemistry was great, though not to the scale of Grease’s original John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. However, Hough was the perfect choice for Sandy, and the 27-year old, usually known for her dance moves, proved she’s a triple threat. Her rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was even recognized by Newton-John herself, according to a People Magazine article. Tveit, while he may have been too old to play a high schooler, nailed Danny’s charisma that any woman would expect in a T-Bird—and his vocals weren’t too harsh either.
Grease Live, while full of songs to move and shake to, cannot be compared to the original. For an updated version of the original, though, Grease is definitely the word.
IMAGE TAKEN from thewrap.com