“Grease: Live” lives up to expectations, incorporates modern flair

Fox aired “Grease: Live” on Monday Jan. 31 to an audience of 12.2 million viewers. I’ve been a fan of Grease since I was just three years old; needless to say, I was tremendously excited to see how this live show went. I was not disappointed. John Travolta was my first crush. I loved his swagger as Danny Zuko in the Grease film, as well as his believable dual personality and his good looks and charm. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Aaron Tveit would be portraying Zuko in “Grease: Live” because I was familiar with him as both a Broadway and television actor. I knew Tveit had the looks and pipes to represent this character, I just questioned his ability to portray the Zuko persona.

I would say that Tveit did Travolta justice in his portrayal of Zuko. He wasn’t quite as convincing as a bad boy type because Tveit is a bit softer in nature, but it’s no easy task living up to Travolta’s original portrayal.

Julianne Hough—who played the gentle Sandy in “Grease: Live”—was a perfect fit because she seamlessly emulated a combination of apprehension and purity. I was impressed by her vocals because I had never seen her sing before, but she is no match for Olivia Newton-John, who played Sandy in the original Grease film.

Hough is best known for her ballroom dancing skills—her career took off as a professional dancer on “Dancing with the Stars.” Directors Thomas Kail and Alex Rudzinski did an excellent job incorporating her talent into this adaptation through an additional scene of Sandy nailing her cheerleader tryouts. This doesn’t happen in the movie—in fact, Sandy can barely do a cartwheel in the film—but it made sense to showcase Hough’s dance skills and to add a new flavor to Sandy’s character.

To me, Vanessa Hudgens stole the show in her portrayal of rebellious Rizzo. Hudgens wiped away my preconceived notions of her being a soft-spoken good girl based on her previous role in the High School Musical franchise. I had my doubts about Hudgens being able to represent a girl struggling to find herself while also acting like the leader of the Pink Ladies, but Hudgens surpassed my expectations. She was sassy and cool, all the while being fearful about the uncertainty of her future. Overall, I genuinely believed her character.

What was so impressive about Hudgens’ performance was the way she was able to nail it while dealing with a personal tragedy. Just hours before the show, Hudgens received the devastating news that her father had passed away after battling cancer. She performed the show in his honor and I feel that he would have been proud of her incredible performance.

“Grease: Live” was no easy show to execute. There were multiple stages—both indoor and outdoors—resulting in the cast having to take golf carts from stage to stage. Miraculously, the show went without any obvious glitches and the cast made smooth transitions from scene to scene.

The costume changes were impressive as well. Most notably, Marty’s transition from her nightgown to a fancy dress and back to her nightgown happened in only a matter of seconds in “Freddy My Love.”

The actors, stage crew and everyone else involved with the show were faced with a very difficult task in putting on “Grease: Live” and I think everyone collaborated to put on a wonderful live performance. I knew it was unrealistic to think that it would be identical to the Grease film, but my expectations remained high. I was definitely left feeling satisfied after watching “Grease: Live,” and if I’m being completely honest, there were even some tears shed as it brought me right back to my childhood.