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 Post subject: Grease: Live - The Fox Network
PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:28 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 443
Location: New Jersey
This is an ‘instant’ mini-review of tonight’s live television presentation of Grease.

Grease: Live
The Fox Network
January 31, 2016

-- by Jerry Hochman

They did it.

Having nothing better to do this evening than watch TV – well, I had plenty to do, but nothing that I wanted to do - I decided to catch Grease. I knew that Julianne Hough and Carly Rae Jepsen were in it, and anything with either of them couldn’t be all that bad. So why not?

It blew me away.

From the first minute, the boundless, raw energy of the production blasted through my old 36” black box TV with the 10 foot deep picture tube, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I can only imagine what it looked like in HD. I even sat through the commercials - I didn’t want to take a chance missing any part of it. Soup to nuts, this production was the finest live TV presentation of a musical that I’ve seen. Let me expand on that a little, since there haven’t been all that many live presentations of Broadway/movie musicals. It was the finest live production of almost any TV entertainment that I can remember, and I’ve been around awhile. And it succeeded in doing what I’ve previously written TV could never do with live, or even taped, entertainment, including the enriching Live from Lincoln Center and Great Performances presentations: It pulled me in. I wasn’t just watching it from a distance; I could feel it. I was there.

Maybe it was a little busy-looking at times, and every so often I thought I was watching a staging out of Dancing With The Stars. But when measured against the overall non-stop powerhouse excitement level, such observations are silly. The production's inventiveness and staging decisions were brilliant - the production professionals took chances (an integrated, live audience??), and they worked. All of them.

There was also this thirty second sound glitch – for which I’m grateful, otherwise I would have bet that it was all pre-recorded. As it is, I have difficulty believing that all of it was live – it couldn’t possibly have been that flawless. But even if parts were taped, it doesn’t matter. It’s a fabulous achievement. And since so much of it was outdoors, it’s a good thing it didn’t rain. Wait – it did – they were prepared for it, and still pulled it all off -- cleverly and with panache (El Nino indeed!).

Hough and Jepsen, as Sandy and Frenchy, exceeded already high expectations. (Hough can sing. Too. Even through some scratchy/foggy audio.) Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo was flat out marvelous. As Danny, Aaron Tveit, who, for me, came out of nowhere, was a keg of dynamite with a deeply hidden heart. Kiki Palmer's Maraschino seemed a bit over the top, but in context it worked marvelously, and Carlos Penavega, reprising the dancing talent he demonstrated in DWTS, was pitch-perfect as Kenickie. But there wasn't a weak link in the bunch. The choreography, which dominated this production as much as the technical wizardry and performing talent, was not just galvanizing, but, considering its period limitations, really good. The few updates that I saw or sensed (e.g., casting or script) were handled appropriately and effectively.

The grin on my face that began with the first minute and continued solidly for the next three hours is still there, and I'm not even at the after-party - I'm just replaying it in my mind. Thanks guys.

Edited 2/1 a.m. In the initial posting, I said I'd update this mini-review with cast information not at my fingertips last night. That, and a more accurate accounting of the audio problem, are the only edits from what was posted last night.

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