Thanks to energetic direction by Thomas Kail—who, as the director of Hamilton, has serious Broadway cred—last night’s production of Grease was the first live small-screen musical to not seem so small-scale. There were multiple soundstages, countless costume changes, and long, almost cinematic tracking shots. It was the first live televised musical that actually moved.
The production’s technical audacity made up for some unremarkable lead performances from Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough, whose dancing skills outshone their acting chops. And despite a few updates for today’s audience–no cigarettes for these Pink Ladies—this was still Grease: goofy and sometimes clunky, with date-rape jokes and retro sexual politics intact.
But the event’s MVP was Vanessa Hudgens, whose Rizzo would have made Stockard Channing proud. Hudgens announced on Sunday morning that her father had died this weekend of late-stage cancer, but didn’t miss a beat.