FOX’s “Grease Live” is a fun experience that can’t be beat, but struggles to match the vocals in NBC’s “The Wiz Live.”
For its first live theatrical performance on network television, FOX’s take on the iconic 1970s musical and movie “Grease,” which made its debut Sunday, is spectacular.
The drama of Sandra Dee (Julianna Hough) and Danny Zuko’s (Aaron Tveit) romance is portrayed on a grand scale with elaborate sets that don’t just look like the story setting as in “The Wiz Live” but really feel like the principals office, the gym, Frenchy’s (Carly Rae Jepson) bedroom, the diner and a car garage.
The large cast moves between sets with a flawless fluidity. Also flawless is the way “Grease Live” Executive Producer Marc Platt and directors Thomas Kail and Alex Rudzinski incorporate the live audience and host Mario Lopez into the performance.
On Rydell High’s first day of school, the audience stand as to resemble crowds of students returning from summer break. At the cheerleader tryouts, the audience appear to be a gaggle of onlookers cheering on the new girl.
Lopez at once talks to “Grease Live” viewers as himself and the fictional National Band Stand watchers of the Rydall spring dance as Vince Fontaine.
Another plus is how FOX preserves all the risque jokes and dances of the original and adds even more tongue-and-cheek moments.
It helps that Hough’s Sandy and Vanessa Hudgen’s Betty Rizzo so closely resemble their 1978 counterparts.
Both “Grease Live” and “The Wiz” feature excellent dancing. But Zack Woodlee’s choreography of dance, costume changes and even golf carts are far superior.
Where the “Grease Live” faltered a bit is its singing.
Although 90’s group Boys II Men and Jessie J open the made-for-TV performance with a bang and all the classic songs such as “Grease lighting,” “Born to Hand Jive” and “You’re the One That I Want” are delivered in the get-up-and-groove style pf the 1978 movie, the solos are hit or miss.
Hough’s rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is brimming with beautiful emotion as is Tveit’s “Sandy.” And although it got off to a rough start, Jordan Fisher’s (Doody) performance of “Those Magic Changes” made me swoon.
However Jepson’s “Angel” is lackluster, and KeKe Palmer’s solo performance as Marty is a miss.
Still “Grease Live” barely struggles to stand up to the powerful voices of “The Wiz Live”‘s Amber Riley and Shanice Williams.
Only Hudgens’ “Worst Thing I Could Do” comes close.
Still “Grease Live” is a spectacular performance. Watch the whole thing again and again on FOX.com