I watched the first 30 minutes of Grease Live!. It’s not a show I particularly care for, even from its original production in Chicago at the Kingston Mines theater, where the show (written by Wayne Casey and Jim Jacobs) was based on Taft High School. And I found that this production confirmed my sense of the show. I know a lot of people really love Grease. I'm just not one of them. (To be fair, it wasn't the stage show that was performed, but an adaptation from the movie version, which has a few good additional songs, but is a bit more showy.)
The opening title song, which seemed to be done in one shot, if I remember correctly, was very well-done, and the show overall was a seriously impressive production in scope for a live TV musical. So, I give them great credit for that and pulling it off. I was also okay with them continually breaking the Fourth Wall and either talking to the camera during breaks, or showing it behind-the-scenes -- I wouldn't be with most shows, but since Grease is so thin, little distractions like that ("Hey, we know this is all just in fun") might even help. But in large part because of that large scope I found it sloppy, trying too hard to keep everything at a fast pace all over the place, with things too unwieldy to keep focused. And for my taste I thought the direction was often a mess, attempting to keep it all "moving" and "exciting," but the over-active camerawork kept getting in its own way, drawing attention to itself. The director seemed to love starting with a close-up and then quickly pulling out to a long shot. And then so often swirling the camera around. And while I know the show is sort of a pastiche that lends itself to over-the-top acting, this production struck me as going over even that normal level. The acting in general was quite competent, but flat, on the surface. They didn't seem to play the characters so much as play "types." Interestingly, perhaps the only performer who I felt played a character was Didi Conn, who had been in the movie. Here, she did a nice job as a waitress consoling, in a whimsical touch, Frenchie, the character she played in the film.
(Odd note: I'm not quite sure why the producers chose to shoot this live production in a way that made it looked filmed, which sort of distanced the viewer from the sense of excitement of always being aware that this was live. Which is the point of doing it live. It looked nice, but I think deadened the vibrancy.)
To be honest, going in I didn’t expect to keep watching -- the story (particularly this movie-ish version) is just much too thin for my taste, so with all these other issues that's why I lost interest at the half-hour mark. However, I did record the whole thing so that I could fast-forward to the handful of songs that I do like. As a result, I got through the entire show, and enjoyed those half-dozen or so songs. And again, I was very impressed with the ambition to put on such such an hugely-adventurous production. And I suspect it worked okay on the surface, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some people loved it. But I want a lot more than that. I also think it notable that although they had a live audience (which was a nice idea) and they "fan-cheered" at the musical numbers (which were well-performed), it stood out to me that whenever I watched dialogue scenes, I don't recall hearing any laughter, which you'd sort of hope for in something that is at least supposed to be funny. Part of that is the show itself, which is effective in evoking an era, though I don't especially find funny, but part is that I thought the performances just didn't find the humor that was there.
So, hat's for for ambition and pulling off a major-scale live production. I just wish it was a better musical and didn't try to hard to be "exciting" with swirling cameras.
All this aside, I do have to single out one of the more impressive "human" performances I've seen, that from Vanessa Hudgens. I don't tend to pay much attention to celebrity news, so it wasn't until the end "In honor of..." credit that I was reminded that she did the show just hours after her father passed away the night before. That she was able to stand on her feet, let along sing, dance act and smile is remarkable. And on a live TV extravaganza where so much can go wrong, and you can't stop for another take. We always hear about "the show must go on," but she took that to extremes.
2/1/2016 03:34:03 pm
I almost abandoned the show at the 30 minute mark, but decided to stick with it. I thought that it improved once the second hour started; enough, at least, to get me to stick around until the end. That being said, I enjoyed Galavant more than I did Greece.
2/1/2016 05:26:51 pm
You will notice, no doubt, my additional comments today about Season 2 of "Galavant." Not posted yet, as I write this, but soon.
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor