Another Network has taken their turn at the MUSICAL NAME: LIVE! television event.
NBC has done three so far: The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and most recently, The Wiz. Most will agree, each attempt got better, with The Wiz being pretty top notch. But, tonight, there was a live musical on FOX. They did GREASE: LIVE! And, how did they do? Did they crash and burn or rise above?
I tried to rally my friends and family to watch this with me. But, I was told, “No way! Did you see Sound of Music? It was AWFUL!.” They didn’t want to take a chance.
So, after a birthday party that evening, I grabbed some popcorn, accessed my DVR recordings and pressed play.
What the production did well:
The Overall Presentation: Unlike NBC, FOX used multiple sound stages. This allowed for better camera movement, and gave the actors more space to work with. Instead of static camera shots, we were skipping along with the actors, moving along with them from the school yard to the diner. It was different and it worked.
The Casting: While it took NBC a few tries, Fox got casting right on their first attempt. Every actor could sing, dance, and act. No one fell short. One might wander about actors in their late 20s to early 30s playing teens, but they pulled it off. None of the actors looked 30 and you could tell they did their best to play teens and not a “30 year old playing a teen.” I was most impressed with Julianne Hough, who had the naive, delicate Sandy down pat.
The Music: All the favorite tunes from Grease are here, with one addition, that I could tell. “All I need is an Angel”, was written for the character of Frenchie, and it was a beautiful song. It added to the story, fit the vibe of the other songs and was catchy.
The Audience: NBC has lacked a live audience for all three of its musicals. An audience is critical for performers, and GREASE: LIVE pulled it off nicely. Audience members sat in bleachers, in “the school yard” or “in the cafeteria.” The audience was able to give energy to the performers, while doubling as student extras. It was genius.
The Costumes/Lighting/Sets: Top notch on all three fronts. Colorful costumes, beautiful sets, and lighting that really made you think Sandy and Danny were at a drive in. Holy cow.
What the Production Could Have Done Better:
Going out to Commercials: Right before a commercial break, Mario Lopez would suddenly appear. Almost always right near the actors, telling us we were watching LIVE and that we’d be right back. This kind of took me out of the story and ruined the illusion. The opening number, sung by Jessie J, also seemed out of place to me. I would have preferred if they had gone the NBC route and played it straight the whole way through.
Technical Trouble: The performance nearly went off perfectly, except for the majority of the high school dance sequence. Audio got terribly scratchy and we even lost audio for about five seconds. Now, mistakes will happen. But, it was just too damn bad it had to happen during the dance.
Aaron Tveit: Okay, okay… don’t get it wrong. Overall, Aaron was phenomenal in the role. He was a great Danny. The problem I had was there are parts in the story where Danny’s physical appearance comes into play. He’s supposed to be good looking, yes, but not muscular. Sandy starts dating Tom, a jock– and Danny tries out for some sports teams to impress her. I was laughing during these parts because, Aaron is in great shape. His biceps were bulging like nobody’s business. So, when Danny can’t throw a basketball or gets taken down by a wrestler, it’s a little comical. I’m sure there could have been some slight script adjustments to account for Tevit’s physique.
Overall, this was a fantastic production. Very few issues. For a “first try”, FOX nailed it and hit a home run. NBC might want to get worried now, because, there’s a new actor in the audition room.
Images from Fox.com