Ambitious 'Grease: Live' shines despite rain

BURBANK, Calif. -- Rain didn't dampen the spirits or performances of the cast and crew behind Fox's "Grease: Live."

The ambitious three-hour production, broadcast live from 14 different sets at Warner Bros.

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Studios, worked the Southern California drizzle into the show Sunday, incorporating umbrellas into outdoor dance numbers and even an ironic line into the script: "Let's just hope it doesn't rain."

Behind-the-scenes footage shot during commercial breaks and shown on Facebook revealed wet golf carts zipping along slick pavement to move actors and cameras between sets. Members of the live audience wore disposable rain ponchos.

The broadcast lost audio for a few seconds during its second hour, but it's not clear if the issue was related to the weather.

Mario Lopez, who had a small role in the show and hosted the backstage Facebook videos, said the rain began just before the show did at 7 p.m. E.T.

"It was like three, two, one: action. Rain," he said.

"Grease: Live" maintained a solid social-media presence throughout its television broadcast, with an endless stream of tweets, retweets and Facebook posts appearing steadily during its three hours.

The Broadway-meets-Hollywood hybrid follows the teen love story of Sandy and Danny, played by Julianne Hough and theatre veteran Aaron Tveit, with a supercharged blend that weds theatre's immediacy and cinematic flair.

"Grease: Live" is building on the current small-screen fascination with musicals, which started with NBC's live telecasts including "The Sound of Music" and "The Wiz" and may include "Hairspray," also from NBC, and, from ABC, a possible movie update of "Dirty Dancing."

Sunday's production was dedicated to Greg Hudgens, father of Vanessa Hudgens, who played Rizzo. She tweeted Sunday morning that her dad had died the night before and she would perform in his honour.

The musical opened with an elaborate, continuous shot of Jessie J singing "Grease (is the word)" as she roamed the vast soundstage before stepping into the drizzle. Boys II Men punctuated her performance with a cameo, and the crooners returned later in the show to sing "Beauty School Dropout."

Original "Grease" stars Didi Conn, who played Frenchy, and Barry Pearl, who co-starred as Doody, also made cameos. Conn played a waitress at the Frosty Palace, where the new Frenchy (Carly Rae Jepsen) comes to a realization about high school.

The online videos and peeks at production efforts that aired before commercials demystified what looked seamless on TV. Hough is seen racing to a golf cart and handing her shoes over to a costumer, who counts down the four minutes they have between scenes.

But to watch it on TV was to see a musical that might have been filmed in advance, so spectacular were the settings, costumes and performances. Hough and Tveit were picture perfect as Sandy and Danny for a new generation. Jepsen, Hudgens and Jordan Fisher, who played Doody, dazzled in their solos.

"Grease: Live" has been in the works for more than six months and called on the talents of more than 300 people. When the final scene gives way to joyous dancing, the celebratory energy is clearly real.



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