You’re the one that America wants!
Grease will be coming back to the screen next year in a live broadcast version of the show across the US. And a number of decisions by broadcaster FOX, who is reviving the popular musical, have left some people very disappointed. But there is actually a reason for this!
Grease is arguably the most well-known movie musical of all time. If you grew up after 1978, you will have come across the Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta movie about rebellion and teenagers at Rydell High in some form. Whether you saw the original movie in the cinemas. Whether you have danced to the Grease megamix at high school parties. Or whether you have seen the less known stage show. Basically, it holds a pretty cherished place in people’s hearts.
Which is why any decision that FOX makes about Grease is bound to cause some discomfort for some people. In this case, it is the theatre devotees.
There are two decisions which are top of mind at the moment in the coverage. Casting and Song Choice.
Fox have chosen a rather commercial casting route with a couple of theatrical actors thrown in the mix. The live broadcast will open with Jessie J singing a new version of ‘Grease (is the word)’ before Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit take over the lead roles of Sandy and Danny. Julianne Hough will join the Pink Ladies consisting of Vanessa Hudgens, Carly Rae Jepsen and Keke Palmer and Aaron Tveit will be supported by his own group of T-Birds led by Carlos Penavega as Kenicke.
This is a predominantly celebrity driven cast featuring some of the most popular people on our screens at the moment – some of whom have recently taken Broadway turns. Vanessa Hudgens led Gigi, Carly Rae Jepsen took over the lead role in Cinderella and Aaron Tveit is a long-time Broadway star. But they are still popular celebrities which irks a number of theatre aficionado audience members.
The other issue? Song Choice. It is a little known fact that the stage musical version of Grease is dramatically different to the movie musical. There are different songs. The story takes a different journey. Even some of the characters have different names. So which one will this new revival movie choose? Movie or Musical?
Neither. A new script is being penned for television which will no doubt take the best of both worlds and create a version of Grease that pays homage to the original movie musical while also adding some additional elements from the musical.
So what of the theatre fans who are disappointed with this decision? I have some news for you . . . you are not the target audience. The aim of this broadcast is to engage a whole new demographic with live theatre. It is not being done to give fans of the musical something to watch, it is being done to bring people who have never stepped foot inside theatre the opportunity to experience with very few barriers. And that will only be a good thing for theatre.
The roughly 53 million people the celebrity cast reaches on social media will be alerted to this opportunity to engage with their favourite stars. And the familiar story is what this audience is looking for (as The Sound of Music learnt two years ago when they were true to the stage musical). The decisions may not be ideal for fans of the theatre, but these decisions will make many more fans of the theatre for the future