jessie palmer

Well, GREASE LIVE was tonight.

 And it was a worthy companion piece to the original movie.

I have to give the biggest props of all to Vanessa Hudgens, who had to perform hours after learning her father died of cancer. Not only was she a terrific Rizzo, but her professionalism in the face of a crushing personal loss is unreal. She delivered the goods and then some. Bar none, the best performance of the night, and under some ghastly circumstances, no less.

Julianne Hough was every bit as sexy and personable as Olivia Newton-John in the original film, and she more than earned the role of Sandy. Big, big shoes to fill, and she nailed it. And let’s be honest, who didn’t want to see her wearing that classic black spandex? As much as I liked Melissa Benoist’s turn as Sandy on Glee (and still do), Miss Hough was the right person for the job.

(On a related note, the decision to make Sandy a Mormon and change her last name to Young? I liked it. Aside from personalizing the role for Miss Hough – much as making Sandy an Aussie and changing her last name to Olsson for ONJ – it explained a lot about why Sandy was so repressed and skittish. I still love ONJ’s “sexy nerd” version of Sandy, but a Sandy who comes from a super-strict Mormon family is a nice character touch, and it makes Sandy’s decision to cut loose at the end more dramatic

That, and “Dumbrowski” is a shitty last name for a sexy spandex-prone blonde no matter how you slice it.)

Aaron Tveit and Carlos Penavega as Danny and Kenickie? Both guys were total unknowns to me prior to this, but damn. Those guys are good. Tveit probably had the toughest act to follow of the whole cast (the shadow of John Travolta is massive), but his James Dean-flavored take on Danny was rock-solid. And Penavega was immensely likable as Kenickie. Just a really appealing, giddy dude. I may not have known these guys going in, but I will absolutely be following their work following this.

Carly Rae Jepsen was the cutest Frenchy you could ask for.

Keke Palmer chewed up the scenery as Marty, and it was a blast to watch. You could tell she was diving right into this headfirst.

The supporting cast – including the other T-Birds and Pink Ladies – were wonderfully cast and tremendously likable. Even Craterface – excuse me, “Hatchetface” – Balmudo was charming despite being the biggest jerk walking.

Jessie J, Boyz II Men, and DNCE killed it with their numbers.

Loved Barry Pearl and Didi Conn’s supporting roles. A great nod to the movie.

Mario Lopez couldn’t have been any slimier as Vince Fontaine. And you know what? I wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise. He was a great addition to the cast.

The new songs written for the show (including Frenchy’s solo) meshed seamlessly with the classic score. Major kudos to Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey for masterfully handling the soundtrack.

“Greased Lightning” was insane. I’m still floored by how big and wild they made that number, and those blue and silver track suits looked awesome. And the new car looks way nicer than the one in the movie. (Sorry, I always thought Greased Lightning had an ugly body style.)

I did not expect Eugene to be such a big character in this, much less his endgame. It was a huge twist given his traditional punching bag status, but you know what? I liked it. It was a great curveball for a story that’s otherwise locked in stone.

Loved Sandy’s rivalry with Patty Simcox. The constant head-butting between them made for some really fun scenes.

I’m still amazed they managed to pull of the drag race. Given the limitations of live TV, that was impressive.

I loved how the live audience and the studio trolley transports were integrated into the show. None of it felt out of place. Everything felt like it was a vital part of the experience. And major props to the live audience for acting as if they were part of the cast. Everything felt like it fit together perfectly.

Will this unseat the movie as the definitive version? Of course not. The movie’s cemented as a classic, and a live stage performance comes with its own set of rules and limitations. But this was a damn good version in its own right, and that’s all I wanted it to be. It kept everything people know and love, it retained all the iconography, it had a strong cast – many of whom I will absolutely be following after this – it was superbly executed, and it fully deserves the Grease name. This washes away the foul tastes of Grease II and the abysmal 2007 Broadway revival, and I will absolutely be watching this again once it hits DVD.

Congrats to everybody involved with this show. You knocked it out of the park.