Fox's highly anticipated Grease: Live aired Sunday night and, despite the many, many ways it could have been a total train wreck, the performance went off without a hitch.
In fact, it wasn't just well-executed, it was spectacular! From the complex orchestration to the huge ensemble cast, everything was pulled off to perfection, and accomplished with the sort of enthusiastic ambition that people have been looking for from prior live televised musicals that have been staged in recent years.
Here are the eight best moments of Grease: Live that set it apart from any other live musicals and raised the bar for future productions:
1. The Costumes
While you can't deny that NBC's The Wiz Live had some of the most elaborate costumes of all time, sometimes subtlety and simplicity speak volumes. Every single outfit from Grease: Live felt spot-on to the 1958 setting, and they so perfectly captured the spirit and personality of the characters and the world they inhabit.
2. The (Many) Sets
The brilliance of the sets from Grease: Live is that none of them felt like sets. From the gymnasium to the auto shop to the diner, the décor and the cast filled them all out and made them feel real. There was never that sterile, sanitized feeling present with so many painted backgrounds and fake sound stage scenery. All of Rydell High felt like a real school.
3. The Quick Changes
Such a complex production required some fantastically executed quick changes. From Keke Palmer ripping off her '50s school girl garb and suddenly walking out in a shimmering red gown at a USO show, to the members of the T-Birds pulling off their mechanics' coveralls once Greased Lightning was restored, all of it worked seamlessly.
4. The Comedy
With a huge cast (and even an audience in some scenes), the jokes in Grease: Live played so much better than the comedy in previous live musical productions. Whether it was the timing or the ensemble or the performers, all that matters is that the show was actually funny.
5. Greased Lightning
If you can't get the car right, you're in trouble. Luckily for this production, Greased Lightning was every bit as badass and enviable as it needed to be, and everything else fell into place.
6. The Car Race
So how can a live stage production pull off a high-speed car-chase? By exploiting the TV medium instead of confining itself to the limitations of a theater experience. With exciting angles, great rear-projection and tight, nail-biting close-ups, it felt like a real race.
7. The Dance Numbers
Grease: Live had one of the biggest casts of any live musical on TV, and because of that it had some of the most intricate numbers. During the big productions and even in the small, more intimate solo performances, the theatricality was always exciting and almost every large dance felt like a show-stopper.
8. The Surprising Performances
Every cast member was spot on. Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit were great as Sandy and Danny -- although no one really doubted their potential -- but the whole ensemble pulled together to be flawless. Even Vanessa Hudgens, whose father died hours before the show aired -- delivered an amazing performance as Rizzo, and dedicated the production to her father's memory.
In a night of killer '50s costumes, jaw-dropping dance numbers and dazzling demonstrations of raw talent, Grease: Live had a big shadow to dance its way out from under (namely, the beloved John Travolta/Olivia Newton John original), and it came through with flying colors.
Fox effectively put NBC on notice for all future live musicals. Hopefully, Grease: Live will shoot some much-needed vitality into NBC's upcoming production of Hairspray!