‘Grease: Live’ wasn’t just fantastic — it was breathtakingly phenomenal. A new classic. And impressively, the outstanding performances by Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, Keke Palmer and Carly Rae Jepsen have just MADE their careers.
Sorry, Grease: Live naysayers, you have nothing to say this morning: Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, Keke Palmer and Carly Rae Jepsen all just gave performances last night, Jan 31, that should make them household names. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing propelled the original 1978 Grease film into a must-watch movie for many generations. Now, Grease: Live needs to be rewatched over and over to fully absorb and appreciate the genius of this new group of stars.
First high fives have to go to Vanessa Hudgens, who channeled her grief for father Greg, who passed away just the night before the Grease:Live show, after battling cancer. The brave 27-year-old announced on Twitter early on performance day that her “daddy, Greg passed away from stage 4 cancer. Thank you to everyone who kept him in your prayers…tonight, I do the show in his honor”. And she did. And amazingly, there was no hint of grief in her magnetic portrayal of Rizzo. She perfectly captured Rizzo’s tough, bad girl exterior, as well as her inner insecurity countered by a confident belief in her own moral code.
Her swaggering Rizzo mannerisms, fleet-footed dancing and emotional delivery of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, were flawless. And let’s just consider again how strong Vanessa had to be to quell her personal grief and focus on delivering the best performance of her life as Rizzo. Vanessa hasn’t had a role since her early success as Gabriella in High School Musical, that has demonstrated what an enormous talent she is — let’s hope that the offers come pouring in now. She deserves them.
The same is true for Julianne Hough, who was primarily known — until now — as a mind-blowingly fabulous dancer and then judge on Dancing with the Stars. We knew she had fleet feet, and we saw her moves on display in the 2011 remake of Footloose, but Grease fans feared she’d never pull off the singing. Fear fail! From the moment Julianne opened her mouth during “Summer Nights”, worries evaporated. She could do it, AND her ability to dance and cheerlead up a storm took Olivia’s Sandy to the next level.
Aaron Tveit, time to build a big time career off Broadway, which you’ve already mastered. Aaron was just endearing AND built AND dance-worthy as John Travolta was as Danny Zuko.. No, let’s correct that — he’s far more built than Travolta was or had to be at that time for the role. We need to start seeing Aaron a whole lot more onscreen. Then, Keke Palmer as Marty Maraschino and Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy — we knew you both could sing, but now you’re ready to nail Broadway. You’re both now beyond pop songs as the mainstays for your musical brands. Your agents’ phone lines should be blowing up!
It’s normal for a new film or TV series to have a breakout star, but Grease: Live has five. And let’s not ignore the genius performances in less highly-billed roles — Carlos PenaVega Jr. as Kenickie Murdoch, Ana Gasteyer as Principal McGee, Mario Lopez as fast-talking Vince Fontaine and Elle McLemore as head cheerleader/mean girl Patty Simcox. Congrats to this stellar cast of Grease: Live and especially to Vanessa Hudgens, who gave new meaning to the phrase “the show must go on” with the performance of a lifetime!
Do you agree, Hollywoodlifers? Let me know.