Rides and "Grease"

Monday, February 1, 2016 8:35 AM

FOX's Sunday night live production of Grease wasn't quite the travesty I expected. But I'm noting it here, because the finale featured a carnival constructed on the backlot that featured a working swing ride, Trabant, Ferris Wheel....and even a Zipper! They also cleaned up the "pussy wagon" lyric from Greased Lightning, transforming it to...wait for it....DRAGGIN' WAGON!

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Monday, February 1, 2016 9:40 AM

My theater friends declare it was beyond travesty, and just awful. Now I'm curious to see it, but not quite curious enough to actually see it.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 9:58 AM

After watching NBC's Peter Pan, which achieved stunning levels of awful, I swore off live TV theater events. Better to watch the better bits on YouTube after the fact.

NBC's Sound of Music was good, despite an underwhelming Captain in Stephen Moyer and Carrie Underwood, as Maria, who could not have made it any more obvious that she was reading her lines off cue cards. Of course, Audra McDonald excuses many sins :-)

Back to Grease: that said, several theater folk I know have praised Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo (one called her "perfect"), and also praised having the movie version's Frenchy, Didi Conn, make a cameo with Carly Rae Jepsen.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 12:24 PM

I watched the first half or so last night (not intending to, but got sucked in when my wife tuned in). While I've only seen bits and pieces of the Grease! movie (by choice) and thus have little frame of reference, I thought the production was pretty decent.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 12:58 PM

I'm one of your theater friends, and I didn't think is was all *that* bad. I've seen em all, and there certainly have been worse (Peter Pan), and better (The Wiz). Grease falls somewhere in the middle.

What I don't get is why they have this "how can we make it bigger and better" mentality. Well, yes I do, but it drives me crazy. Take Grease for instance. It ran on Broadway for 100 years and on the road or in revival for another 200. The stage version works well. Some of the most enjoyable shows I've seen on tv are the simple PBS versions where they position a camera or two in the house of the actual theater and maybe one in for a few close ups. That's it, and the show is presented just as a Broadway audience sees it. Why can't they try that? It works well every night somewhere. Because they're afraid it won't sell, I guess.

These shows seem to be plagued by questionable casting, and odd adaptations. They each have their successes. The Sound of Music stayed truest to the original script and score I think, but the traditional conventions of a theater set seemed goofy shot for television. Peter Pan was woefully miscast and the production numbers seemed more like something from a drag show. I died of embarrassment for them.

In last night's Grease the absolute highlight was Vanessa Hudgens (who was indeed A-#1+++ perfect) as Rizzo. She broke my heart a couple of times, her song is the best one in the show anyway, and then come to find out her dad died the morning of the production. Jeez, you can't write stuff like that. The show went on and she was awesome.
Julianne Hough can do no wrong in my book. She is such a doll and made a great Sandy. Overall they really hit the mark this time with a great cast. The production numbers were great, but the acting scenes were painfully slow-paced. And their "Cast of 600" included audience extras (lots of girls) positioned around the set in bleachers, at the carnival, or whatever the scene called for. They even included today's uniformed service men and women, so it was corny but fun in that way.

Oh,... yes. As for the rides it looked for a minute like they had caravanned them all to Neverland Ranch for a bunch of Chance rides, what with a Zipper and a Wipeout there. (all set on "slow" and none carrying any passengers, but pretty to look at.) But that scene was awesome, the closing number was great, and caused me to forget any previous sins.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 1:27 PM

Yeah, the energy level grew by leaps and bounds those last twenty minutes. I wasn't impressed with Frenchy's new song written for this production, although I thought Carly Rae Jepsen was pretty good overall. I also like that they found room for my favorite tune from the original Broadway production, Freddy My Love, even though it wasn't used in the movie.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 2:01 PM

Mike Gallagher said:

They also cleaned up the "pussy wagon" lyric from Greased Lightning, transforming it to...wait for it....DRAGGIN' WAGON!

Kill Bill's "Pussy Wagon" became a "Party Wagon."

Still think that beats Vater's favorite ride...

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Monday, February 1, 2016 2:04 PM

RCMAC said:

Julianne Hough can do no wrong in my book.

I agree 100%.

But as a straight man, probably for completely different reasons.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 3:12 PM

Sound of Music was a pretty straight forward adaptation, but Carrie Underwood, while an amazing singer, couldn't act her way out of a cardboard box. Having just seen the touring show, it was like seeing it for the first time. Their Maria was plucked right out of her sophomore year of college, and completely amazing. I was surprised how good it was, and made me dislike the TV version.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 3:27 PM

The Underwood Sound of Music was horrible. They shouldn't even have been able to use the same name.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 3:34 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

RCMAC said:

Julianne Hough can do no wrong in my book.

I agree 100%.

But as a straight man, probably for completely different reasons.

Hey, now, just a second there. I can certainly appreciate the... the... well, no, I guess I can't.
Anyway, Julianne Hough is a faaaabulous dancer and her brother's hot, too.

There.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 6:03 PM

The FOX production got a lot of things right, and the biggest was the addition of a live studio audience. The performances for The Wiz were terrific but with nobody there to laugh at the jokes or applaud at the end of songs it just made little sense. The original shows were built to be show in front of real people so to deprive the TV audience of that element of the theater just feels obtuse and awkward.

NBC is doing Hairspray next, and from a nuts and bolts perspective that's a better show than The Wiz, Grease, and Peter Pan. It's a good choice for the format but I'd love to see one of the networks tackle something a little meatier / challenging. Gypsy. A Chorus Line. My Fair Lady. Anything Sondheim.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 6:41 PM

There was a version of Gypsy a few years back with who? Bette Midler, I think? It was ok. And as for Sondheim, I'm a fan, but I can't imagine Assassins done for tv. :-) Sweeney Todd? Too scary. Into the Woods? Too hot on the heels of the movie. A Little Night Music? Um, no.
I know! West Side Story!

I think the key to success with these is wide appeal, and the shows done so far have at least that going for them. Hairspray, the movie turned musical turned movie musical is a likely choice. Just please, no John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, ok?

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Monday, February 1, 2016 6:43 PM

A live audience did make a big difference.

I could see a live TV production of Gypsy or Fair Lady working; As much as I love Mr Sondheim (and that is a whole lot), Sondheim might be a bit too hard of a sell for commercial TV outside of Into The Woods. Ah, but Mr MAC makes a great suggestion with West Side Story.

There was a filmed version of Gypsy in 1993 with Ms Midler, brought to us by the same folks, I believe, that were behind Cinderella with Whitney Houston and Annie with Audra McDonald, Who Can Do No Wrong Ever.

Hairspray, from the tech end, is a great choice. Both ET and People suggest Zac Efron as Corny Collins. People pops for Neil Patrick Harris as Edna while ET suggests Channing Tatum to don the padded dress.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Monday, February 1, 2016 6:47 PM
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Monday, February 1, 2016 9:12 PM

I'd love to see Bianca Del Rio as Edna. But that won't happen.

I thought The Wiz was great, didn't watch Peter, Sound of Music I couldn't get thru, but I thought they did a great job of Grease. Rizzo was the most (to say the least). I thought it was overall good production and good choreo. If theater folk hated it, I'm not surprised, but it probably wasn't so much for them anyways.

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Monday, February 1, 2016 11:29 PM

Oh, yes. Bianca as Edna would be wonderful. But *sigh* it won't happen on an NBC live broadcast.

I've now seen Ms Hudgens performance as Rizzo singing Worst Thing I Could Do. Yes. Spot on. She was great. And a live audience brought a necessary energy to the show.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 11:08 AM

And Slith, I agree that Ms. McDonald can do no wrong. Kinda. We saw her early on (round Ragtime, I'd guess) in a one woman concert at a beautiful small theater here in Columbus. We sat at her feet and were entranced.
In Sound of Music, however beautiful her Climb Every Mountain was, the rest of the time she was busy doing the "sistah neck thing", possibly the sassiest nun ever. I wasn't sure how many African American Mother Superiors there were as the Nazis invaded Austria, but diverse casting is always fun.
And that's why Hairspray should have no worries snapping up Bianca before she gets too busy with Pride tours and such.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 11:46 AM

I've had the pleasure of Miss McDonald in concert twice; once in the very intimate Martin Theater up at Ravinia Festival and once downtown at Chicago's Symphony Hall.

She could announce concert that would consist of her singing the funny pages from the Sunday newspaper and I'd be happy to buy tickets.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 12:18 PM

Perhaps a live, unedited version of Hair should be looked into.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 12:30 PM

There's always Oh Calcutta :-) But please, Logo: there's no need for a live broadcast of Naked Boys Singing.

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