Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun songs and dance numbers, great production, nostalgia
Cons: The moral of the story
The Bottom Line:
Great song, dance numbers ruined
By shaky moral
There Was a Reason I Had Been Avoiding This Musical
There is a long list of classic American musicals I had never seen or hadn’t seen until the last few years. One of those was Grease. I’d avoided it because of some of what I’d heard about the storyline. But I couldn’t pass when I saw that Fox was joining the live musical bandwagon and producing Grease Live! With people I am familiar with in the cast, I figured this was as good a time as any to watch the movie. Sadly, it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting.
The musical takes up back to 1959 and tells the story of Sandy (Julianne Hough) and Danny (Aaron Tveit), high school seniors who had met the summer before on the beach. They figure they are going their separate ways until Sandy’s family moves from Salt Lake City and she attends a new school, the school where Danny just happens to go.
Of course, they can’t just get back together. Sandy’s a good girl with strict parents. Danny’s a greaser. Sandy makes friends with a group of girls lead by Rizzo (Vanessa Hudgens), who seems to have a bit of a crush on Danny. Will their very different backgrounds keep them from making their relationship work in the real world?
I can certainly see the appeal of the musical. Even today, 1950’s nostalgia is strong, and it was certainly strong in the 1970’s, when this musical was first written. The music is fun, and the dancing is top notch. This is an example of the best in the genre from that standpoint.
And NCB could learn a thing or two from the production here. Yes, it was all done on soundstages live, but that didn’t mean it was anything less than glorious. The costumes and the sets were both wonderful. The effects shots, pretty much reserved for a drag race late in the movie, were top notch. This was a huge step up from the three NBC efforts. There are also some awesome costume changes that compare to the best of Broadway.
Likewise, the acting was better. Oh, I’m not comparing it to any of the performances from the classic movie since I’ve never seen that. Again, I’m comparing it to the NBC live shows we’ve gotten so far, which have featured acting that can be a bit stiff. And it was a blast watching the cast, which included such people as Boys II Men, Carlos PanaVega, and even Eve Plumb as the female mechanics teacher at the school. I felt everyone did a great job.
I think one different was the live audience, which gave the performers someone to react against. Of course, it was a double edged sword when they used the audience as part of the action. For some scenes it work, but for others, it left me scratching my head. One scene in particular with two sets of bleachers on front lawn of the school springs immediately to mind in the head scratcher category.
No, my issues with the movie are more with the story. First, there’s the question of the timeline. I guess the story takes place over the course of a school year, but it felt to me like maybe a month had passed at most. Either I didn’t follow the story as much as I thought I did or they weren’t clear on the passage of time in this version.
But that’s not nearly as big a deal to me as the moral of the story. All the conflict goes away when Sandy changes herself and her values to match Danny’s. What relationship will last when you change that much for someone? What’s even worse is that from the very beginning, Danny and his friends are shown as shallow teens who degrade women. Trust me, they will not have a healthy relationship. And we even get an object lesson in how they treat women with a storyline involving Rizzo. Considering I hear “Never change for a man” preached to teenage women, I’m surprised this is such a popular musical since it has the exact opposite moral.
So I guess I’m one of the few who will never be a fan of this story. For a new generation, this product is fun, but the moral keeps me from fully recommending Grease Live!