Grease Live! was sensational. And going into it, I was a skeptic. I mean, Fox. But I should have known – Thomas Kail, who directed Hamilton, is on the helm so I was at the very least expecting something new (or new-ish, anyway) And he did – he incorporated what is best in a television program to what is an okay musical at best – the stage version, for sure, although I do have very fond memories of the film. Here is a case where what was changed or what was added didn’t infuriate me, as I am a theater purist at heart. And, it was well-cast. Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko didn;t have oodles of ravolta goofball charm – and he is marginally bland – but he has great talent: a great voice and can essay Zach Woodley’s dance moves very well. Julianne Hough, as Sandy, surprised me. For me, she isn’t perfect (I did cringe at her ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’) and we knew she would ace the dance sequences, but she didn’t annoy me, and for her that was a major feat because just looking at her annoys me. And the not-should-have-beenn-a-revelation? Vanessa Hudgens. Forget the back story of her father passing away the night before the performance, but she is sensational here – sly, wink-y, likable – and easily the best performer of the evening.
And yes, for the most part, I love the changes: Keke Palmer’s transition on “Freddy Me Love” made me squeal in delight, and okay I did appreciate the new Tom Kitt/Brian York song added for Carey Rae Jespen, as it segued into Boyz II Men singing ‘Teen Angel’ (the their melisma minimized some of the great lyrics) The score is holding up pretty well, with a good combo of the stage and film versions, and I still get a little teary-eyed whenever I hear ‘Sandy,’ which is my favorite from the show. I think this is the most successful of all live stage casts, for it felt fresh, and I can see little gaylngs in Tulsa getting invigorated by theater. I know Fox is also redoing “The Rocky Horror Show” next so I am now looking forward to that one.