When I sat down to watch Grease! Live, I felt mainly anxious. Attempting to recreate such an iconic movie is dangerous, and I was bombarded with images of Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez and clips of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” playing in my head. The characters of Grease – their voices, their clothes and their mannerisms – are so unique, I didn’t think it was possible for people other than the original cast to do them justice.
While I was pleasantly surprised by the live production of Grease, I do have to somewhat criticize the casting choices. While Vanessa Hudgens and Aaron Tveit had incredible vocal performances, they failed in my eyes to capture the essence of Rizzo and Danny. Danny Zuko is greasy and sexy and goofy, always moving his hips and limbs in unnatural ways and combing his hair. Aaron Tveit played a much more wholesome and restricted Danny. He wasn’t a punk. In the final scene of his live performance, Tveit looked very at home in his letterman sweater – versus the typical Danny Zuko leather jacket and cigarette. Similarly, Vanessa Hudgens wasn’t able to reproduce Rizzo’s bitchy attitude and snarly sound. Hudgens nailed Rizzo’s habitual gesture of playing with the bottom of her hair, but the overall impression wasn’t on.
That being said, Julianne Hough channeled Olivia Newton John to near perfection. From her look to her voice to her demeanor, Julianne Hough was Sandy Olsson (see below). She was sweet and demure. But in the final scene, she was sexy and fierce.