I finally got around to watching Fox’s live teleplay of Grease. I recorded the (sadly, not live) Australian broadcast as I was not able to watch it then and there. I ADORE Grease to within an inch of it’s life. It is not only one of my favourite musicals, but one of my favourite films. It gives me a ridiculous amount of joy and will always cheer me up when I’m down.
When you’re as familiar with every aspect of the film as I am, every costume, every pronunciation, every move, every line; watching a different rendition can be difficult. Because you can hear and see the film version in your head, and the differences stand out like a sore thumb.
Now, I’ve seen a bad version of Grease. And I don’t mean an amateur or school production, I mean a huge, commercial and fully professional production. And I can honestly say Fox’s live teleplay of the classic NAILED IT.
There was enough difference to make it not a carbon-copy of the film, but enough original detail to keep it true and not such a shock to those of us who know the film so well. One of the troubles the 1978 film brought was that after it’s huge success, the original stage show, which premiered in 1971, fell into it’s shadow. The film actually made quite a few changes to the show, so the stage show now is in fact a combination of both. And I liked that Grease Live did this too, including songs that were either cut or not featured as musical numbers in the film, such as “Freddie, My Love” and “Those Magic Changes”, which are both great songs. What I really loved though was that “Grease Lightning” was sung more of a duet between Danny and Kenickie. Originally that song was Kenickie’s solo, but John Travolta kicked up a fuss during the film because he wanted to sing it, and so he did.
I must admit, I was a little wary of the casting. Rizzo is my all-time favourite musical character, and my dream role, and while I don’t mind Vanessa Hudgens I was a little concerned. But I have to hand it to her, not only did she perform superbly after the tragic loss of her father during production, she made a terrific Rizzo. Enough sass, enough nastiness. Maybe not quite the amount of sarcasm Stockard Channing had in the film, and maybe a touch more malice, but that’s okay, it was a different interpretation. Second to Rizzo obviously comes Kenickie, love of my life. Knowing Carlos PenaVega as the wild and kind of dumb Carlos Garcia in Big Time Rush, which I was never keen on, I was also wary of him being cast as Kenickie. But he also nailed it. He was the sexy, surly but with a heart of gold Kenickie we know and love. He was slightly more rougher, whereas Jeff Conaway was sort of suave. But as I said, different interpretations are okay, as long as the essence of the character is still there.
The one and ONLY qualm I have is the dance routine in “Greased Lightning”. Not because they adapted the well-known moves into a more complicated routine (I thought that was kind of cool), but because girls were included. Girls in sexy versions of the mechanic overalls. I didn’t like this because “Greased Lightning”, to me, is the boys song, and it’s fun having a huge song and dance with just the guys. The girls kind of just ruined it for me. Plus their hair wasn’t styled into a 50s do, so they looked kind of modern and it just interrupted the look.
But, most importantly (to me, anyway), the costumes on a whole were gorgeous! The crap production I saw had costumes that made me cringe, so I was super-pleased to see fun, proper 50s looking costumes that weren’t always exact copies of the films costumes, but still suited their characters just as well.
All in all, a huge success. I bow down to you, Fox studios. And I can’t wait to see your rendition of The Rocky Horror Show! Now there’s something I’m almost just as in love with, so I hope you do just as good a job as you did with my love Grease!
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