Sunday night, Fox aired “Grease Live!” a live performance of the hit broadway musical later turned into the Hollywood classic which has deeply embedded itself into American culture.
It was fun. It was campy. But it left me longing for the original.
Even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, I couldn’t help but constantly compare Fox’s live version to the 1978 film, the version I grew up with and love. It was disappointing that Aaron Tveit wasn’t as handsome as John Travolta, and it was irritating that Julianne Hough’s attempt at portraying an innocent Sandy was so contrived that it ruined a fair bit of the exchanges between the stars.
At certain points, the live audience was part of the set. They were visibly perched in the bleachers as cast members danced around them. They sat dazed and unsure of where to look or what to do while the cameras were rolling.
It was unsettling to see live audience members on TV who were unsure of what to do with themselves. Hell, it was weird seeing a live audience watching a musical on live TV, but that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be tried again in the future. Perhaps with an audience that isn’t poised as uncertain cast members that are out of place, but as a group of spectators themselves.
As I write this, I’m listening to the original film’s soundtrack on repeat and thinking of young Travolta’s too-tight pants as a reminder of everything Danny Zuko ought to be. Though perhaps the sense of longing I feel isn’t one of disappointment in this new spin on an old classic as much as it is a sense of nostalgia for the musical — a genre that’s sadly fallen out of vogue.
Any summary of Sunday night’s performance would be incomplete if it overlooked the real star of the show: Vanessa Hudgens. She was so convincing as Rizzo and actually made me forget that she ever played a goody-two-shoes character in the past, especially for a series of Disney movies.
She’s so deliciously badass, and it’s marvelous. What makes her performance more remarkable is the fact that Hudgens’s father died Saturday night of stage four cancer just hours before the performance.
Before the show kicked off, Hudgens tweeted a touching tribute to her late father.
Tonight, I do the show in his honor.
— Vanessa Hudgens (@VanessaHudgens) January 31, 2016
After the performance she gave last night, especially considering the emotional turmoil she must have been dealing with, Hudgens ought not to be underestimated.
In the future, I hope Fox tries producing a live musical again. The idea of one being broadcast on live TV is so much fun and judging by all of the excitement it generated online, it seems there’s definitely an audience for live musicals to become a regular thing. And wouldn’t it be fun to live in a world where you could gather the family around the TV on a Sunday night to watch a musical that was happening in real time?