Tag Archives: NBC

Hairspray Live ! (A Quick Review.)

I’m a little late to the party, but you didn’t think I’d forget about the Live! Musical review did you?

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NBC has done it again, now with it’s 4th musical, “Hairspray Live!” a musical that oddly mirrors the current political climate in America.

The musical follows Tracy, a heavyset teenager hoping to become a cast member on a dancing television show, in 1962. Along with her ditsy friend Penny, Tracy makes it her mission to allow the African-American cast members to dance on the show everyday, not just their scheduled once a month.

So, here are my thoughts:

The Good:

Maddie Baillio as Tracy

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NBC realized very quickly that a bankable star might not always be the best way to go, if they can’t sing, dance AND Act. Maddie is an unknown, having won the role at an open casting call, beating nearly 1,000 others. The young woman is beautiful, can sing amazingly well and she makes Tracy her own. I believe she has a bright future ahead of her.

Kristen Chenoweth and Derek Hough

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016

Chenoweth is fabulous in almost everything she does, but she was especially wonderful in the role of Velma, a television producer hellbent on keeping television as white as possible. She had the right amount of silliness without making the character melodramatic.

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Hough, I knew was a dancer, but holy moly, the guy can sing. That was a wonderful surprise.  I had seen some online chatter that he “wasn’t living up to” James Mardsen, whom plays the role in the film. I felt he played Corny Collins just fine.  It is funny that his sister, Julianne, played Sandy in Grease Live!

Multiple Stages

NBC took notes from FOX and this time, the production was not restricted to one stage. Instead, actors had room to breathe and the camera work mostly was a welcoming change from the previous musicals. I saw a few reviews mention this as a negative, which I certainly do not agree with. Using a studio lot is the way to go.

The Just-Okay :

Garret Clayton as Link

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Apparently Clayton rose to fame as a Disney star, in one of their original movies. I hadn’t heard of him before. Clayton is not a bad performer, but something was off.  I believe he never got the note to ‘rein it in’ when it came to his acting, which caused his performance  to came across as very melodramatic, as though he was an actor  in a high school musical. (Pun not intended.)

The Bad:

Ariana Grande as Penny

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While Grande was “passable” with her acting of the ditsy best friend, whenever she sang, it was apparent she thought she was performing one of her concerts. The character of Penny would disappear and Grande the Pop Star appeared! Her breathy, barely audible singing totally took away from the production.

The Host/Viewing Parties 

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While NBC intelligently took cues from Grease Live about multiple stages, they  unfortunately decided a host was needed as well.  The Host is an element in the live musical that needs to be done away with. It makes sense to have one, but all a host does is bring attention to the fact we’re watching a show and it takes you out of the performance.  Musicals don’t stop for a host on Broadway, so they shouldn’t stop for one on television either.

Final Thoughts:

The NBC Musical and other variants is a wonderful thing to see happen. I hope the live musical continues throughout the years to come.  I did enjoy ‘Hairspray Live’ overall and I’m excited for the next one.

*Character Images are property of NBC and were taken by Brian Bowen Smith.

*Party Image taken from City TV Live Broadcast.

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Grease: Live! ( A Review. )

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.

GREASE

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.

Sandy

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.

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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.

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Final Thoughts:

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.

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Images from Fox.com

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PETER PAN, LIVE! A Short and Sweet Review.

This time last year, 18 million people sat down to their televisions to see Carrie Underwood in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, LIVE! And, here we are again, but it’s PETER PAN, LIVE! With Allison Williams.

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I gave a quick review of the former production, so, I figured I could do the same this year. Short and sweet.

  1. The set was beautiful. Very colorful and large. Very “story book.”
  2. My breath was taken away when Peter made his entrance. Flying effects were on point.
  3. Not a fault of the NBC production, but I felt most songs were forgettable. However, the music itself makes a great score.
  4. Allison Williams did a fairly good job, in both acting and singing.
  5. Christopher Walken seemed to go in and out of character. His Hook was silly. However, the Disney Hook is silly most of the time, so maybe that’s what he was going for.
  6. Taylor Louderman was an extremely melodramatic Wendy. Very Broadway. I would have liked her to tone it down just a tad during the few serious moments.
  7. Tinkerbell was nifty. Props to actors knowing where to look and for cameramen moving perfectly for Tink’s path.
  8. Melisa Joan Hart was a hoot in those Walmart commercials. My favorite one was where she laughs as her children play with some toys. “Yes, these are bow and arrows! Like the one Wendy got shot with!”

So, was this a better production than last years? I’d say it was. Not that “Music…” was bad, but you could agrue last year’s lead needed some acting classes. Sure, “Peter Pan” had sort of the same wonky feel. But, NBC fixed what went wrong last year and overall, I’d say this was very enjoyable and more whimsical.

As it stands now, NBC is planning to air a LIVE play next year. I believe it will be 12 ANGRY MEN. My hope is they reconsider, and do another family friendly musical. While many people want to hatewatch, I think it’s important the LIVE Musical become a Holiday tradition.

Might I recommend GREASE, CINDERELLA or THE WIZARD OF OZ?

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The Sound of Music Live! – A Short and Sweet Review

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To the point. Short and sweet:

  1. First, let’s applaud the network for attempting this. It’s a marvelous idea, and if memory serves me right, hasn’t been done since 1957. (In which Julie Andrews played Cinderella.)
  2. Yes, you could tell they were on sets, but it had a “Broadway” feel, and the sets were pretty damn impressive.
  3. The children did amazingly well. No major line flubs or anything.
  4.  Carrie Underwood’s singing was amazingly wonderful. Her acting was nothing special, but I would not say she was bad. For not being an actress, she did well. She didn’t miss any lines. Give the woman some credit.
  5. I don’t know Stephen Moyer’s background— His acting was great, but he was flat on some notes. But I ‘d rather hear a flat note here and there instead of an actor lip-syncing.
  6.  Laura Benanti, again, I have never heard of her, (I apologize)  but she shined in both acting and singing, and even had to adlib a second when an extra stepped on her dress and it almost ripped. She was very enjoyable to watch.
  7. The rest of the supporting cast was top notch. You know who I’m talking about – Audra McDonald and Christian Borle.

So, in summary— was this perfect? No. But it was a damn good production and people need to realize that this sort of event is a major undertaking. It should be celebrated. I hope that another musical receives this treatment before another 56 years go by.

 

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