Just Bananas About: Week of 2/8/16

I’ve been quite biased about the live televised musicals. Sometimes the thrill of watching something live in the theater doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with camerawork. However, I was curious to watch Grease: Live for two reasons: the cast and the fact that they performed live not only in front of the cameras but also in front of an audience. There’s a reason why it was the talk around the watercooler last week.

I’ve never gotten a chance to see Aaron Tveit live but he was so memorable as Enjolras in Les Misérables, even though it was such a minor part. And I knew the Julianne Hough could dance and sing. What I didn’t expect was how great their chemistry was on screen. Julianne Hough really played up the sweetness of Sandy Young and then she does a total 180 at the end of the musical for the number, “You’re the One That I Want.” Aaron Tveit is so suave as the rebel Danny Zuko.

I was also impressed with Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo. Forget the fact that she gave her all for this performance even though she was dealing with the death of her father the day before. Her performance of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” was quite cheeky but then she turns it around and does a heartbreaking performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”

There were a number of notable performances besides the ones from the main cast. Namely, this live show was a place for Jordan Fisher to breakout in the role of Doody, a member of the T-Birds. I suppose he’s done a lot of tween shows on Disney and ABC Family but this is probably his biggest role yet. I think he stole hearts with his endearing, dorky personality, especially when he croons, “Those Magic Changes.”

Keke Palmer is also fabulous as Marty Maraschino and her rendition of “Freddy, My Love” brings us back to the doo-wop days of The Supremes. I seriously got Diana Ross vibes from her and it pays to watch Keke Palmer change her costume on screen multiple times during the number.

The show had a lot of great cameos such as Boyz II Men as the Teen Angels, Jessie J as the singer for “Grease,” Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine and Joe Jonas as Johnny Casino. However, the most memorable cameo had to be from Didi Conn and Barry Pearl who played Frenchy and Doody in the original movie.

I think with a lot of live televised musical adaptations, the camerawork is always going to suffer to a certain extent. However, what I enjoyed about this musical is that it was a 3-dimensional stage. Just as it was hectic for the cast to run (or take a ride) from studio to studio in order to make it to the next location for their next number, the camera guys had to work out their choreography just as well. I’d say that the next group that attempts to do another live televised musical (which appears to Tyler Perry’s The Passion) should really look to Grease Live to see what they did differently to make it such a success.

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