If you had asked me after NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!” if I thought live musicals on TV should become a semi-regular thing, I would have said, “eh, sure.” After NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” I would have said “please, dear god, no” and after NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” I would have said, “yeah, okay.” Now that I’ve witnessed Fox’s take on the live TV musical with “Grease: Live,” I say yes. Hell yes. Because, you guys, “Grease: Live” was AMAZING.
I’m not going to get into the plot of “Grease,” because if you don’t already have the plot committed to memory from many years of watching the movie (and seeing the 2007 Broadway Revival, like I did) you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. What I will say is that “Grease: Live” offered up a wonderful mix of what made both the stage and screen versions great. Updated elements, like the choice to have Boys II Men play the role of Teen Angel as a trio, didn’t feel weird or out of place. Classic lines like “a hicky from Kenickie’s like a Hallmark Card” remained, offering some great throwbacks to the original material. The cast even included several cast members from the film, including the original Frenchy, Didi Conn, and the original Doody, Barry Pearl, in different parts.
Speaking of the cast, they were all fantastic. Starring a mix of seasoned Broadway vets (like Aaron Tveit and Andrew Call) and Hollywood mainstays (like Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens), the cast had something for everyone. And, unlike other live TV musicals (*cough* Christopher Walken *cough*), they could all sing! It was quite the treat to not have any cringeworthy moments where some movie star could barely hitting the notes. (No offense, Walken. I loved you in “Hairspray!”)
What really made the show great was the magic behind the scenes. Costumes with built-in quick changes by William Ivey Long were lovely and made for no awkward pauses or wardrobe malfunctions. And Thomas Kail‘s direction brought the excitement of seeing a Broadway show live to the TV. The problem I often had with the live NBC productions was that they felt so stagnant; the energy just wasn’t there. Kail, who also happens to be the director of a little Broadway show called “Hamilton,” had no problem with stagnancy, keeping things moving by utilizing several sound stages and the back lot at Warner Bros. Studios. This, paired with great camerawork led by live television director Alex Rudzinski, made the show feel truly alive. By the end, I felt just as exhilarated as I would leaving a Broadway theatre. The fact that they were able to do that on TV is really something.
Next on the live TV musical schedule (if you ignore Fox’s “The Passion,” which I plan to) is NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” Before “Grease: Live,” NBC had been the game maker of sorts when it came to this kind of fare in the modern age. I think it would definitely be in NBC’s best interest to take some notes from Fox’s production. “Hairspray” is an amazing stage show (and movie, one that I saw 10 times in theaters) and could be just as high energy and fun if done correctly. It just needs a little, dare I say it, grease.
So what did you guys think? Do you love the resurgence of the live TV musical? Did you watch “Grease: Live?” Are you excited for “Hairspray Live!”? Are you an apologist for Christopher Walken in “Peter Pan Live!”? Tell me about it (…stud.) in the comments. And, of course…