Monday, February 13, 2017

Grease: Live (2016)

Number Rolled: 51
Movie Name/Year: Grease: Live (2016)
Tagline: An electrifying live television event!
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Length: 130 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production Companies: Marc Platt Productions, Paramount Television
Producer: Kenneth Ferrone, Thomas Kail, Brett Ostro, Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Jeremy Tominberg
Director: Thomas Kail, Alex Rudzinski
Writer: Allan Carr, Robert Cary, Warren Casey, Jim Jacobs, Jonathan Tolins, Bronte Woodard
Actors: Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, Vanessa Hudgens, Keke Palmer, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mario Lopez, Carlos PenaVega, Kether Donohue, Jordan Fisher, David Del Rio, Andrew Call, Wendell Pierce, Boyz II Men, Jessie J, Ana Gasteyer, Didi Conn, Barry Pearl, Elle McLemore, Noah Robbins, Eve Plumb, Haneefah Wood, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Jon Robert Hall, Sam Clark, Jeremy Hudson
Stunt Doubles: None

Speech Available: English, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Blurb from Netflix: Originally broadcast live on network television, this catchy musical follows the up-and-down high school romance of good girl Sandy and greaser Danny.

Selina’s Point of View:
Grease is an incredible classic tale. It transcends generational gaps. People my age grew up watching it and singing the songs, but so did people younger – and older – than me. It has wide-spread appeal and it’s relatable on almost every level. Good girls, bad girls, good boys, bad boys, teachers, students… everyone can find a little bit of themselves in it.

Grease: Live stuck very close to the original script. If they were going to use the original script, though, it might have been nice if they did something interesting with the rest of it. Something that still fit the time and setting. Personally, I wouldn’t have been upset to see the same script being played out in 2016. The pop references would have to be updated, but it would still have worked pretty well I think.

Going a little deeper into the setting, I think the casting director should be commended for attempting to promote diversity, but it doesn’t fit the era. Grease is set in the 50s, the world was even more racist than it is today. Segregation in schools wasn’t even ruled unconstitutional until Brown v. Board of Ed in 1954 – after that there was still an incredible amount of tension for a long time. Ignoring that is doing a disservice to the people who lived through it. You cannot deny history, no matter how difficult it is to accept. To include the kind of diversity they wanted to include, they should have brought the story into the present. Then it would have made sense and may have even done something good for racial relations.

I didn’t hate all the casting choices, however. I was really surprised with how well Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, High School Musical, Gimme Shelter) worked in the role of Rizzo. Even when I was younger, Rizzo was my absolute favorite Grease character and I was concerned that Hudgens might not be able to pull it off. In fact, if they had rearranged the era of the film, the majority of the casting decisions would have been fine.

Of course, the appearance of Boyz II Men (Blended, Last Days, House Party 2) hit me right in the nostalgia and I re-downloaded a bunch of their songs. I used to listen to them constantly.

Although I didn’t hate the film, it did kind of come off as though it were a high school play (with a giant budget) rather than something worthy of Broadway or Hollywood.

It’s not bad for background noise, but you might as well just watch the original – or even the original sequel.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ll admit that I had some reservations when this live special was announced for network television. I’m a fan of the original movie, and I even got a chance once to go see an off-Broadway stage production. (It was a high school choir trip, and boy was our teacher a little red-faced because she had forgotten the un-censored lyrics.)

Curiosity won out, inevitably, and I actually watched this the first time with the live show. I was rather impressed. I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle the transitions and set pieces. I have to tip my hat to the production team. From sets to costumes, it was fairly flawless. I was particularly impressed with how they handled the racing scene.

Even though this production is a bit of a period piece, I think that Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages, Curve, Dirty Grandpa) was an excellent choice for a “modern day” Sandy. Her dancing and vocal ability were on point, as well as her seemingly effortless ability to evoke that wide-eyed innocence that the Pink Ladies enjoyed teasing about.

I thought Aaron Tveit (Howl, Graceland, Undrafted) was an interesting choice for Danny Zuko. I wasn’t aware that he had a musical performance background, honestly. I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed that Danny and Kenicki’s aesthetics were swapped a bit for this production from their stylings in the original movie; but I think it worked.

Carly Rae Jepsen (Castle, Sing, Leap!) was an absolutely adorable Frenchie. I think that character was probably my favorite out of the original movie, believe it or not. It was actually a little eerie how she even resembled the original character.

The real scene-stealer for me, though, was Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers, Machete Kills). She hit the role of Rizzo right out of the park. Stockard Channing’s (The West Wing, Sparkle, Pulling Strings) original performance was iconic. I thought that Hudgens captured the raw essence of that character and gave her own little tweak to it. I am also floored by her work ethic. The production, and her performance, were dedicated to her late father. The kicker? He had passed away from cancer only a handful of hours before the show went live.

On a lighter note, there were a couple cameos in this live show from actors that appeared in the original movie. Most might recognize Didi Conn (Frida, Shooting Vegetarians, The Call), whom played the original Frenchie, as Vi at the diner. However, there wasn’t quite as much buzz about Barry Pearl (My Favorite Martian, The Newest Pledge, Straight Outta Oz), who played Stan Weaver in this production. He was the original Doody. Both Conn and Pearl were wearing their jackets from the Pink Ladies and T-Birds respectively when they took their bows at the end of the show.

This was a fun production and a rather impressive undertaking as a live show. Though, I must admit I enjoyed watching it this second time around a little more – because of the lack of commercials. There’s no replacing the original movie, but this is a joyful romp for any that might want to see it as a stage show without having to travel to the stage.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

Movie Trailer:

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