Starring: Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, and Vanessa Hudgens
First came the Sound of Music, then came the flight of Peter Pan, followed by the powers of The Wiz, and now we have the hallways of Rydell High in…Grease Live. A staple in musical history, Grease, is probably one of the most iconic musicals to have existed. Widely adored by all ages, Grease is the word that brought us summer nights, lightning, and made us go together one hand jive at a time. For those who have not seen Grease, in short, it’s a story about two high school students, Danny and Sandy, who shared a summer romance. Both end up at the same school and there is a constant challenge of living up to self images , while still trying to be the one and only they want. Everyone is familiar with the movie, starring John Travolta, Olivia-Newton John, and Stockard Channing, but it first started as a musical in 1971. Grease the 1978 movie is and will always be the best all time version of the story. With that said any version of this story will always and forever be compared to Grease the movie.
The television Live production was a refreshing and interesting take on Grease. Whoever did the casting did a superb job, there is no doubt that there was a lot of talent and passion brought to this project. To start in this review, I am going to give huge credits to the fact hat it was shot Live in front of a studio audience. You can tell that it added an energy to the performances given. Transitions from scene to scene were effortless and really made it feel like you were watching a stage show rather than a TV movie. Camera angles and the blocking of scenes really added to the overall feel of the show. It was obvious that a lot of time and thought were put into this project and that this event was not just a stunt to get network ratings. Grease Live was a passion project to redefine and attract audiences to a love of musicals and the expression of new forms of entertainment.
As previously stated, you can not do any version of Grease without comparing it to the classic 1978 movie version, its like comparing a Blockbuster Movie to its original book version; nothing will be as good. Grease Live did some things that were very enjoyable, for instance, it opened with singer Jessie J, singing the iconic opening credits number walking through the set highlighting the actors and the behind the scenes area of the studio. It kind of set the tone for the experience we received. The on stage chemistry between the actors was also a high point, everyone worked well off of each other. With that said, while there was an overall feeling of camaraderie, some performances were not what you would want or even expect. Julianne Hough played Sandy, most iconically played by Olivia-Newton John, and while I absolutely love Julianne, I felt her performance was to much of her trying to be Olivia-Newton John. From the voice to the overall character itself, I found her performance to be unoriginal and very much lacking the personality that I know Ms. Hough has. She is a better performer than that or at least I would like her to be, I will however say that her dancing was incredible and she is an overall stunning woman who I absolutely adore and love. Aaron Tveit, played Danny iconically played by John Travolta, and while I admired the performance given, it was just… OK. Aaron often came off as soft rather than admirable, while his acting was good he did not embody the character audiences would expect or have seen. The breakout star of the project was Vanessa Hudgens, she play Rizzo iconically played by Stockard Channing. Although I feel Stockard played the character to perfection. Ms. Hudgens made the character her own, her talent from her acting to her voice really stood out and was really what kept me drawn into the experience. On a side note, I really appreciate the professionalism and the dedication Vanessa had displayed to this project, especially since her dad had died the night before this Live event. Her performance showed no indication of the personal struggle she obviously would have been going through. By far the strongest performance of the show.
A few other things about Grease Live, the pink lady group was so strong, they definitely outshine the T-Birds compared to the vice versa flip of the 1978 movie. The Hand Jive was different and refreshing and you get a better glimpse of that in the Special features. Beauty School Drop Out was a huge, huge, and I mean enormously huge disappointment. Probably one of my favorite scenes from the movie but in this project it was a huge snooze fest, performed by Boyz II Men, who I expected a lot more from. Singer Carly Rae Jepsen, played Frenchy, while I feel she did really well, it did not live up to the original characterization. The original movie Frenchy, was in this production as the diner waitress and that was very entertaining to see. It also kind of felt like a stamp of approval from the original cast. If you love Grease, like I do, you will really enjoy this TV Movie; however, hands down it will not compare to the original 1978 version. So go into it not expecting much, you will find entertainment in it and not feel like you have wasted precious moments of your life.
THE PACKAGE AND VIDEO
The packaging was a standard DVD case with cast promotional photo as the cover. There was honestly no appeal to the case, it would not be something that would catch your attention accept for the title. It looks more like a program cover rather than a display case. The film is Not rated and is roughly 2 hours long. the clarity of the video is great, the camera angles and the scene transitions were perfect. The use of the camera added a huge appeal to the musical numbers and really added to the overall feel of the scenes, even when performance kind of slowed in entertainment. The best video quality/ image in my opinion was the big race scene toward the end, very pleasant delivered. If I could change anything about this disc, it would be breaking up to scene selections. There was no clear breaks so you would have to fat forward or rewind if you want dot go back later and watch a specific scene or musical number.
Audio was well done for it being a live event. The movie is in 2.0 Dolby Digital, and there was a great balance between music and singing. Everything seemed to compliment each other. All the actors voices had shown through great in the live performance and even resonated well on this film copy. I must also point out the ambience sound control was astonishing given the fact that this took place on an actual set, with a live studio audience.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES
Unlike most special features on disc, this was a very pleasant addition. All of the features were short and to the point. They were very open looks into the behind the scenes, which audiences did not get on the television event. Interviews with the cast and crew really gave the passion, dedication, and excitement put into this project which made the overall viewership of this production more enjoyable. The best Special Features were the the segments “When was Your First…?” and “My Favorite Grease Moment”, which showed the actors of the Pink Ladies and T-Birds discussing Grease and their view on the original and their part in this event. Talk about getting connected to the cast.
OVERALL (not an average)
Grease Live, was great show! It reminded me of the love I had for the movie and made want to watch the original movie all over again. By far it has been the best TV musical production to have hit our screens. It had all the elements of a great show, it is just unfortunate that it will always be compared to the iconic movie. The time and energy put into it, really was impressive and entertaining. I watch it both Live on television and through this DVD copy and still found it very enjoyable. The best part about the DVD was the special features, because it added to the overall package. If you get a chance please watch Grease Live and let us know what you think.