It's been what, a week? And I'm finally getting around to Grease Live. It's been really crazy here in Germany! I had set aside Monday to watch the thing but the asshats at Fox didn't post it online until way past my bedtime on Monday. But here it is, finally, my thoughts on Grease Live.
For Grease Live, I will be referencing The Fug Girls' recap and Hamilton's own Twitter feed. It's the closest I can get to watching it as intended - with a community. I'm going to have to figure something else out for the Oscars and the Tony's...
We start with a green screen beach. First: They made Sandy from Utah instead of Australian? Is Olivia Newton John Australian? Quick Google trip: Okay, yes, apparently. Well that makes sense. Don’t make Hough have to deal with an accent on top of everything else.
Over at Go Fug, they, rightly, give a nice spiel about Vanessa Hudgen’s dad and what a BAMF she is for going on. And Lin starts off with a bunch of West Wing references. What better people to do this with? Also, the Fug girls recognized the significance of Hail’s contribution and their recap is full of classy Hamilton references. They were not throwing away their shot!
And we’re off, with ‘Grease is the Word.’ Admission: I haven’t seen the original film in a long damn time. I do remember enjoying the cartoon though? Sandy is basically a Disney princess, with woodland creatures, while Rizzo struggles to get her head out of her turtleneck… Jessie J is random but also somehow makes total sense. Overall, it’s a nice overview of the various characters we’ll be seeing. And good job on that long tracking shot, Kail. As someone pointed out on Twitter: That’s Birdman level shit!
Then a brief interlude for us to meet the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies. The boys are dumb and I like the Pink Ladies: my overall thoughts on Grease.
But here comes ‘Summer Lovin’. I really liked this song when I was younger but I may have to abandon it because of the extreme sexism. But isn’t that the point of Grease to begin with? I do enjoy the juxtaposition between the ladies and the dudes. Also, this is primarily word for word from the movie… Also, as Fug mentions, for all the talk Fox gave about ‘taming it down’, so far they’ve kept most of the raunchiness in. Tveit, whom I very much enjoyed in Les Miz, is good but no John Travolta. He might be bananas now, but his Danny is iconic. Also, having a live audience is so helpful. Please do this in the future, live musicals! Total silence after a song is awkward. That being said, the audience has been silent following the ‘jokes’... It’s like watching Big Bang Theory without a laugh track.
There is cheerleading that had some purpose. I agree with Fug - it's probably just a combination of time to arrange other sets and also to remind people they had an outdoor set. It certainly didn’t do much with the plot. Good job Hough, though. The Tracy Flick character needs to calm down. I don’t really understand why she gets so competitive with Sandy. Sandy does not care if she’s a better cheerleader or not…
Then we have the pep rally and Rizzo, in her bitchiest moment, throws Sandy and Danny together. He’s dumb and she’s naive. Also, I love that the audience that is supposed to be the pep rally audience is really just watching Sandy and Danny… It’s weird. Otherwise, Danny is such a jackass. And most of this dialogue is straight from the movie, right?
And then we have the sleepover!!
"Freddy My Love" is in the musical, but not the movie. It was in the high school production that I saw. But Keke does a fine job. And the Chicago-esque thing she does with it is nice and makes the song more fun. But you only get one of these, Kail! Mostly, though, I’m impressed with the costume changes.
My first LOL of the evening.
"I’m Sandra Dee" is probably my favorite from the movie and Vanessa does an admirable job. I really like Stockard Channing though. Then Sandra herself sings for a second and is sad about Danny. And Rizzo goes and has sex with Kenicke. Because why not. Also, the car and gang stuff I always forget about… There is another gang I guess and he doesn’t like Kenicke or his shitty car.
I also forgot about the live broadcast stuff. What the hell did I think this show was about?
Greased Lightnin: It’s weird the teacher encourages them to steal car parts… Or was that always a thing? Anyway, the song itself is fun, complete with the family-friendly replacements. More impressive trickery, replacing the crappy car with a pretty one, then bringing the crappy car back. And costume chicanery as they put on some very sparkly jumpsuits. Overall, though, good job, Aaron, you were my favorite part of Les Miz.
Somewhere along the way, I lost track of Lin. He’s pregnant with twins at this point. The voice of a generation, you guys.
And we introduce a new set: the diner. Original Frenchy! That’s her, right? Sandy’s date is sweet. She should have stuck with him. The Fug girls suggest that he run off with Rizzo. This works for me too. Doody sings a song that I don’t remember at all… But the guy has a nice voice. I understand the swooning girls in the background. Also, good job on the diversity there, Fox. And more impressive costume changes for Danny! And Doody too!
Wait, why does Sandy like him now? What happened? Did she just get over being mad at him?
Back to the diner. Sandy and Danny are officially together now I guess. And somehow Danny thinks he is going to hide this from everyone? The whole gang shows up. I do like the Pink Ladies. They should have their own musical.
And then Frenchy sings something. I totally agree with the Fug girls on this one - it’s bad. Really bad. Her voice doesn’t fit it at all. And anytime an original song is stuck in like this, it’s either for an Oscar or an Emmy. Chill, guys. The original Frenchy is the better one. And then we get Beauty School Dropout. I definitely prefer the sound of the original. Boyz II Men never quite make the right tone. Lines like ‘unless she was a hooker’ don’t really land. And Frenchy really didn’t know what to do here, what her response should be to the song. At least we got the Pink Ladies in those great beauty school getups.
And we’re at the dance! And MC Slater is there! Apparently Mario Lopez was MCing the whole night, doing bits before and after commercials. They’re not on Hulu but this is okay. I don’t need more Mario Lopez. The camera work is honestly so impressive. This was live! Joe Jonas’s band is not good but the camera work! And dancing!
The competition starts. Hudgens’ dancing is pretty impressive, honestly. Some of this, I don’t think is dancing. Hough is great at the moving as well. She gets scared of the cameras I guess? Cha Cha is not so good. Also, it bothers me that you are allowed to switch partners in the middle of a competition. How does this work? What are the rules?
Hough does a nice job with "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Overall though, I don’t understand the Sandy/Danny dynamic. She just gets mad at him several times and then takes him back, never for any real reasons. Well, we just got to the drive in part. She has her reasons, sometimes, I guess. Stupid teenager decisions aside, "Sandy" is a nice song and Aaron has a nice voice and it is all very nice, except for the talking bit in the middle of the song.
They talk about a duel. Kail is just fucking with us here, right? The Fug girls just quote Hamilton a bunch. The synergy is excellent.
Okay, "There are Worse Things I can Do" might be my favorite, instead of "I'm Sandra Dee". I just really like Rizzo, you guys. Hudgens is excellent. The Fug girls complained that there wasn’t enough harassment for this song. But honestly, there isn’t a lot of emotional reason for a lot of the songs. More like the songs were written, and then dialogue thrown in to string the songs together. Teen pregnancy is the most resonant thing we’ve got going so far. Good job Hudgens! Seriously she was excellent. And her father died a few hours before this…
The car stuff is pretty cheesy but what are you going to do? Did the nerdy guy become a T-Bird in the original? Yay math and science! I’m not sure what triggers Sandy to forgive Danny for trying to grab her boob or why his driving a car suddenly makes her want to have a makeover. But hey - Frenchy has a new victim!
And everyone randomly hooks up so we can all have happy endings. Honestly, though, Jan and her boyfriend were pretty cute. Oh, I forgot Danny was in track. And the cheerleading never really went anywhere either… I guess a lot happened throughout the year that we didn't se. And there’s Sandy, doing her best Olivia Newton John impression. Even her shoes are right out of the movie! Side note: Aaron really trusts the guy who plays Doody. But seriously though, "You Better Shape Up" is great. The dancing is fun and the vocals and attitude just right - Hough and Tveit are totally perfect here. I think they could have done this with just the songs, no plot or story line, and I would have enjoyed it more. The songs are just joy - especially this one!
And then they all get in golf carts and change sets mid-song, demonstrating the enormity of what has been put together for this show. Also, I hope the cast and the audience got to enjoy the carnival rides and games afterwards… Everyone is clearly having fun here and also probably happy that this is over and no one fell on their face and a celebratory glass of champagne is just moments away.
Then curtain calls for everyone. Another thing I appreciate - they acknowledge what just happened, with the behind the scenes peak and having the cast come out. I feel like other TV musicals pretend it’s something else. Everyone knows what’s going on! Let us see the audience and the scene setups!
While the credits roll, they provide a brief behind the scenes look. More of this please! Also, the show was dedicated to Hudgen’s dad, which is sweet and right.
There must have been so much rehearsal… Getting everyone in just the right place for the songs and the dancing and the camera work and the lighting and everything. It’s impressive.
Okay so I know I’ve been mostly critical, but this was just worlds better than Sound of Music or Peter Pan. This was a musical that has really been adapted for live television. Not just some weird pseudo stage. There was movement and even grace that was absolutely missing from its predecessors.
Also, when I see a musical, I leave lifted and with such a feeling of joy and fun, which is definitely happening now. I am out of snark and cynicism! Really well done everyone! It just took me awhile to get around to watching it. Expat problems!