Grease is the word once again, thanks to Grease: Live!
Grease: Live saw Vanessa Hudgens’ work as Rizzo praised in particular. The actress faced terrible tragedy the night before the performance, as her father, Greg, had passed away from cancer. The performance of Grease: Live was dedicated in his honor.
This production of Grease Live was particularly noteworthy for a number of reasons. Not only did the production have to contend with the death of Hudgens’ father the night before, a downpour in southern California forced dancers to carry umbrellas during some production numbers. There were also some audio glitches during Julianne Hough’s take on “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” according to CNN, and while some critics were less than thrilled with her portrayal of the sweetly innocent Sandy, it would seem that Hudgens and Carly Rae Jepsen (Frenchy) were big hits.
Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton offered Hudgens serious praise in a heartfelt tweet.
“Imagine you had Vanessa Hudgens’ day, and doing that,” he said, reflecting on the heartbreak Hudgens experienced just prior to showtime. “What a superhero. In total awe.”
Viewers were also thrilled with the scene between Didi Cohn, who played Frenchy in the film version of Grease but appeared in Grease: Live as a waitress, and Jepsen, who had stepped into the role of Frenchy.
The Hollywood Reporter says that Grease: Live snagged 12.2 million viewers — an impressive haul that rivals NBC’s live version of The Wiz — and it’s almost a certainty that Fox will be doing some dancing through the office as they celebrate their success with this production. Hamilton director Thomas Kail, who directed Grease: Live and garnered significant praise for his decision to place the production across two soundstages with outdoor venues for numbers as well, was widely hailed in the aftermath of Grease: Live as the man who has reset the bar for those wanting to direct live musicals on television.
Vanity Fair reported that Grease: Live was full of “high-energy, high-camp theatrics,” which should come as no surprise to anyone who saw either the musical Grease or the film. Vanity Fair also commented on the lack of chemistry between Aaron Tveit, who played Danny, and Julianne Hough as Sandy.
However, Jordan Fisher’s take on Doody is garnering a great deal of notice. As another member of the Disney stable of young and bankable young adult stars, Fisher appears to have everything any director could want in one of his or her stars: looks, acting ability, and a voice that would make hearts melt. Fisher’s rendition of “Those Magic Changes” in Grease: Live got a lot of attention from many viewers, Entertainment Weekly reports, and Fisher has likely returned to the Liv and Maddie set with a satisfied smile on his face as a result of his efforts.
The universal agreement, however, appears to be that Hudgens may well have officially left her High School Musical days officially behind her. Not only did she deal professionally with her grief, stowing it briefly in order to live the adage that “the show must go on,” she demonstrated a rawness and just enough “bad girl” image to have viewers believe that she was Rizzo.
Her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” the anthem about putting on a brave face no matter what, seemed almost made for her, and the poignancy of what she was dealing with only served to make the number that much more tear jerking.
“Hudgens embodying a show-must-go-on attitude while grieving for her father and singing a famous song about putting on a brave face? That’s about as meta as you can get,” Vanity Fair reported.
Grease: Live has continued the still-new trend of live musicals on television, and it’s doubtless that it will serve as a benchmark for future live television musicals.
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment]