When I was about six years old — during the summer when my family and I moved into our new house — my mother had had enough of my vigorously expressed boredom. She was simply trying to carefully and neatly put her books into the new bookcase. She knew I wouldn’t want to go outside and perform any athletic activity — I just wasn’t that type of kid. So instead, she found her favorite movie and played it for me. From that moment on, Grease had a special place in my heart. I didn’t understand any of the jokes, as I could barely even read yet alone understand comedy at that point in my life. But it still stole my attention as I sat unhealthily close to the screen.
The music was “electrifying.” John Travolta was, let’s face it, even my 6-year-old self’s dream man. And Olivia Newton-John was iconic. I still remember putting on a leather jacket that didn’t fit me, going into my laundry room, pretending to smoke a cigarette (in the form of a pen), and reciting that infamous line, “Tell me about it, stud.” (By the way, my 6-year-old self says you nailed it, Julianne!)
As a devout and true fan of the original 1978 film (and a cheerleader in my high school’s production of the show — I know, dream come true!), I was beyond excited, albeit slightly nervous about turning on my recording of Grease: Live! last night. However, the nerves quickly fizzled out and the excitement rose as the production went on.
If you want to read a scathing review of these cast members, I suggest you go somewhere else, because I am in love with this performance. The vocals in this version exceeded my very high expectations. Julianne Hough, taking on the role of Sandy, sung her heart out with the ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” I assume that Olivia is somewhere in Australia tipping her hat to this unbelievable triple threat. The male lead of Danny Zuko may have been the most nervewracking for me to watch. John Travolta, in that role, has imprinted on millions of young girl’s thoughts…and, admit it men, you all wanted to embody that Zuko persona. Aaron Tveit took a role that was already legendary and added a little bit more “legend” to it.
As a Broadway native, Tveit’s voice was impeccable and his dancing was extraordinary. Acting-wise, he made the character his own, while maintaining that goofy, “I think I’m being cool” sort of charm that Travolta perfected. Tveit also happened to be awfully handsome as well, and that never hurts.
Keke Palmer, in the role of Marty, was fantastic. Her performance of “Freddy, My Love” — a number only found in the stage version of Grease, but also included toward the end of the 1978 film’s soundtrack — reminded me why I love musicals. She took on the glamour, with poise and radiance, and made the role of Marty into something unexpected and incredibly memorable.
For me, the real scene-stealer of the night was High School Musical alum, Vanessa Hudgens. After finding out about the unfortunate death of her father the night before, Hudgens went on to truly embody the spirit of that old saying, “the show must go on.” She not only performed, she shined. Her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was emotional and heart-wrenching. My family looked over at me as the tears glided down my face and my hands went from clapping to holding my heart. As a huge fan of High School Musical — which is often dubbed the “Grease of this generation” — I felt that Hudgens took a step away from her Sandy-ish character of Gabriella that we have come to know and love from HSM, and showed us that she could equally rock the snarky and bitter Betty Rizzo.
Now we have to take a moment to discuss the impressive dance scenes, which are one of my personal favorite aspects of the show (The Glee cast would be so dang proud, Zach Woodlee). They did such a great job of bringing the 50s to us, rather than bringing 2016 into the 50s. The time period is part of what makes Grease so great to watch to this very day. Julianne Hough reminded us all of her spectacular rise to the top of the performance world with her dancing feet, which first appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Speaking of which, where was her brother Derek? Now, they are sibling talent goals. Aaron Tveit captivated the camera as well with his obviously Broadway-infused dance moves. Perhaps I’m just biased when I say that because, in my mind, Broadway is best. The rest of the cast were no slouches either and, collectively, they left me wishing I had taken more ballet classes when I was younger. Hey Julianne, are you free to teach any classes?
To conclude my compilation of positive adjectives and deserved praise for this cast, I’d like to give a symbolic “standing O” to the rest of the cast, crew, and everyone who was a part of this show. This includes you, Didi Conn! Didi was a part of the original film cast and provided a small cameo here. You didn’t think I’d forget your incredible presence among these new faces, did you? You killed it, Frenchy!
I could really go for a Grease marathon right now. Start with the original film, move onto Grease Live!, and, yes, even Grease 2. I don’t care what anyone says, “Cool Rider” is catchy.
— Caitlyn Quinlan, Asst. Marketing & Development Editor