Grease: Live: The Show Did Go On, and Promoted the Greatest Story Ever Told in the Bargain

Fox's massive, energetic production also served to promote Tyler Perry's Palm Sunday musical The Passion

By Al Perrotta Published on February 3, 2016

If the Emmys gave out an award for risky Sunday night productions, Grease: Live would surely be a nominee. The network was putting up a Broadway musical that’s not only been done to death, it’s been turned into an iconic film. What’s more, they were going to do it live, in front of a live audience, across 21 indoor and outdoor sets scattered across the Warner Brothers lot, with an El Nino storm taking aim.

If the Emmys gave out an award for gutsy, Grease:Live star Vanessa Hudgens would surely be a nominee. Hours before airtime Hudgens revealed that her father had died.

If ever the adage “The Show Must Go ” were true, this was the night.

More than go on, Grease: Live triumphed. Both the production and Hudgens performance as the sassy Rizzo earned mostly rave reviews. As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “The little things that fell short of polished paled in comparison to the things that landed against all odds.” Hudgens, for her part, “nailed Rizzo’s bruised pride and made sure that (her solo ballad) ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ packed a punch.”

 

El Nino just missed landing its own wallop. In fact, in the hours leading up to the broadcast, the wind and rains were so intense producers were told a major part of the outdoor set — the facade of Rydell High — could not be used because it was unsafe. Fortunately, the weather eased and by showtime the set was deemed safe. The last vestiges of rain, and the need for umbrellas early on, would not slow things down.

That is thanks, says The Hollywood Reporter, to director Thomas Kail, from the current Broadway sensation Hamilton: “With Kail entirely in charge here, Grease: Live got to do things that would have been impressive on a month-long shooting schedule, but defied any conception of what could be possible in an on-the-fly shoot, in which a twisted ankle, a step-slow cameraman or inclement weather could undo everything.”

 

Of course, you can’t have a Grease without a Danny and Sandy. Few are going to fare well following the footsteps — or dance steps — of John Travola, but Aaron Tveit gave it strong, charming effort. Julianne Hough of Dancing with the Stars fame brought wholesome sweetness and her monster dance chops to the roll of Sandy. As Entertainment Weekly put it, “Her numbers with Tveit radiated fun and true physical charisma.”

Fun could be the operative word for the whole event. “Grease is so much about joy and energy and youth,” producer Marc Platt said Monday, “We decided we want to throw a big party to celebrate that and invite everyone and that’s what we did, and it turned out well for everybody.”

 

According to the overnight numbers, 12.2 million viewers accepted the invitation. That’s about three times what Fox averages on a Sunday night.

But what can excite people of faith is those 12 million viewers were also treated to spectacular-looking previews of another upcoming live Fox event: The Passion. On Palm Sunday, Tyler Perry is presenting a musical retelling of Jesus Christ’s final hours on earth. The story of the Last Supper and the Lord’s betrayal, trial, crucifixion and resurrection will unfold live at some of New Orleans’ most famous locations. This preview gives us some idea of what we can expect.

 

How amazing is it that the kids of Rydell High are helping promote The Greatest Story Ever Told.

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