Fox’s Grease: Live production was as flashy and fun as one would hope the adaptation to be. Fusing the Broadway show with the familiarity of the film, the three-hour television event was a fun, entertaining event packed with strong performances, gorgeous costumes and massive sets. While the show overall was one of the strongest televised musicals from the recent influx of them (and only beat by The Wiz), here are 10 of our favorite moments, performances and aspects of the TV spectacle.
1. The Live Audience
Unlike the other televised live musical events of the past few years, Grease incorporated a live audience, giving scenes like the cheerleader tryouts and pep rally a much-needed boost of high school realness. It was thrilling to watch them mouth along to the songs and added some levity to the awkwardness of transferring a live musical experience to a television. In the future, however, maybe the audience could be allowed to laugh and interact more and give more weight to the show’s jokes instead of awkward pauses where the laugh breaks were meant to be.
2. (Greased) Rain and Lightning
Grease: Live had prepared for both indoor and outdoor stages and had promised a show come rain or shine, and since the rain came pour down in Los Angeles, the show adjusted to a mostly-indoor production. The show still worked and made the final scene that much more climactic as the cast headed toward the carnival.
3. Keke Palmer’s Star Turn
Grease: Live‘s ensemble cast was great, but Keke Palmer as the “mature” Marty Maraschino was a standout, taking the classic character and completely making her her own. As Maraschino, Palmer was the coolest girl in school and could’ve easily been the leader of the Pink Ladies with her assertiveness, confidence and biting sense of humor. Palmer gave her all while singing “Freddy, My Love,” staring deep in the camera as the scene shifted from the slumber party to a USO performance as if she knew she had already stolen everyone’s hearts.
4. Boyz II Angels
Boyz II Men gave an untouchable performance as a threesome of Teen Angels who give Frenchy some harsh truths about being a “Beauty School Dropout.” The trio, campy and fun, belted out the cheeky track at Carly Rae Jepsen. Member Wanya Morris gets bonus points for giving the best facial expressions during the choreography.
5. Vanessa Hudgens
The former Disney star went through the most traumatic event imaginable just one day before her Grease performance when her father passed away on Saturday. She dedicated her performance to him and gave a career-highlight performance as Rizzo. Hudgens shined particularly bright while belting the musical’s most emotional ballad, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” a song Rizzo sings after the whole school finds out about her pregnancy scare. Hudgens perfectly balances Rizzo’s stubbornness and vulnerability in one of the most powerful scenes from the show.
6. Bad Sandy’s Swagger
Julianne Hough played a pretty straightforward, extremely clean-cut version of Sandy, which came in handy during many of the musical’s moments that seemed like a shot-for-shot remake of the 1978 film. It felt like déjà vu as she entered Rydell’s gym as Bad Sandy, owning the all-black outfit and perfectly harnessing the swagger that made Olivia Newton-John’s version of it so iconic.
7. A Blast From the Past
The original Frenchy and Doody, Didi Conn and Barry Pearl, were a heartwarming touch as they joined the cast of Grease: Live. Pearl showed up as Mr. Weaver who is vetting Rydell for National Bandstand and takes a liking to Marty. Conn’s cameo was even better as Vi, the diner waitress who gives Frenchy a pep talk before the Teen Angel arrives. Conn’s conversation with the newest incarnation of Frenchy seemed like a passing-of-the-torch and was one of the most pleasant surprises of the program.
8. Colorblind Casting
It was great to see that the modern cues Fox took with Grease: Live was to go with colorblind-casting, filling the principal roles and ensemble with a diverse set of actors. Seeing such a classic, beloved show embrace a variety of men and women for whitebread roles made for a powerful statement and for a truly updated take on the nostalgic musical. Kudos to director Thomas Kail, who also happens to be the director behind Broadway blockbuster, Hamilton.
9. Those Magic Breakout Stars
The biggest scene-stealers of the night were Kether Donohue and Jordan Fisher. Donohue, who already steals scenes on You’re the Worst, gave an even more playful flare to the already goofy Jan. Even when she didn’t have lines, Donohue’s reactions and movements in the back of the scene would be particularly amusing to watch and made it seem regretful that Jan doesn’t have a bigger role in the show. Fisher became the resident heartthrob of the T-Birds, singing “Those Magic Changes” to not only a rapt audience on set but the viewers who made his version the most downloaded track off the soundtrack.
10. The Grand Finale
The finale was the biggest spectacle of the night as the cast rolled outside on golf carts while singing “We Go Together.” They arrived at a magical, expansive carnival setting while surrounded by the audience. It was a joyful ending to the three hour show — even without a flying car.