‘Grease: Live’ delivers in music, fails in acting

Randi Mattox

Leaving many viewers feeling stranded at the drive in, the live television adaptation of America’s favorite musical hit hard — but often missed. “Grease: Live” may have impressed with its musical numbers, but when it came to recreating lovable characters from the 1971 movie, it fell short. 

GREASE: LIVE: (L-R): Keke Palmer, Kether Donohue, Julianne Hough, Andrew Call, Carly Rae Jespen, Carlos PenaVega  Aaron Tveit, David Del Rio, Jordan Fisher and Vanessa Hudgens in GREASE: LIVE airing LIVE Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 (7:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. Cr: Tommy Garcia/FOX
GREASE: LIVE: (L-R): Keke Palmer, Kether Donohue, Julianne Hough, Andrew Call, Carly Rae Jespen, Carlos PenaVega Aaron Tveit, David Del Rio, Jordan Fisher and Vanessa Hudgens in GREASE: LIVE. (Courtesy FOX)

The production mainly stayed true to the original story. While nothing was missing from the musical, some things were added, including three new songs and a scene about Rydel High’s cheerleading auditions. Multiple characters, such as Patty Simcox and Eugene Felnic, that fulfilled smaller roles in the original were given more character development. These additions were refreshing. It made “Grease: Live” more intriguing to watch because it wasn’t an exact replication of the movie. 

Ad

“Grease: Live” inserted 2016 social norms into the musical. The cast was diverse. “Grease” newcomers just had to guess as to the meaning behind Frenchy’s name because smoking was not glorified. Eugene the underdog was credited with Grease Lightening’s win at Thunder Road. These changes gave a new twist to a beloved musical. 

The costume design was one of the most notable things about the production. “Grease: Live” was definitely visually impressive. Each cast member displayed elements of their original characters, but they also brought something new to the look. It was as if the designers took the exact outfits from the original “Grease” and gave them a modern day makeover. For example, “Good Sandy’s” outfits still included poodle skirts and button up cardigans, but they were in brighter colors and more flattering shapes.

The choreography and musical performances were excellent. The “Grease: Live” cast and crew spent 52 days rehearsing for this one time event, and it showed. The songs and dances were absolutely flawless. I was waiting for someone to mess up, but no one ever did. The iconic “Grease Lighting” musical number had so much going on that I didn’t know where to look. I had to constantly remind myself that it was live.

Amazing vocal performances accompanied the dancing. Julianne Hough perfectly nailed “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” managing to make an often-overlooked song one of the best performances of the show. 

Unfortunately, the acting was flat, and the musical numbers began to feel like a much-needed break. This a disappointment considering the “Grease: Live” has to tell a story. While the cast members look like the perfect fit for their characters, they didn’t put forth anything remarkable.

Hudgen’s performance as Rizzo was awkward at times. She tried to reenact the original Rizzo to the extent that she became unbelievable. However, the actress performed only hours after learning about the death of her father, and she never broke character. It wasn’t Hudgen’s best performance, but that wasn’t because of a lack of commitment. 

Tveit took a different approach to his character, but it was equally unsatisfying. Tveit’s portrayal of Danny was so far from the original that it took away from the nostalgia, and his chemistry with Hough was almost non-existent. 

“Grease: Live” was great in some places, but the acting just didn’t pull through. It’s hard to recreate moments from legendary performers like John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. This downfall is easy to forgive considering the fact that it was a live performance, but it just felt off at times. If it was not a remake, it may have worked better. It just didn’t live up to certain expectations. Overall, “Grease: Live” was entertaining to watch, but it wasn’t anything too spectacular.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdS_yNe02vg

Courtesy of FOX

Ad

Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @randimattox.