Sunday, May 27, 2018
Features and More

Will Fox's 'Grease: Live' be the one that we want?

Determined not to let NBC have all the criticism, Fox will premiere its first of two live musicals in 2016 on Sunday: Grease: Live.

The popular musical about randy teens in the 1950s will be the network's first foray into the unwieldy logistics of producing a live musical for a television audience. Next is October's production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show starring Orange is the New Black's Laverne Cox.

Marc Platt, producer of 2014's Into the Woods and the upcoming film adaptation of Wicked, pulled together a seasoned team to helm the program including Tony-nominated director Thomas Kail (Hamilton, In the Heights) and Dancing With the Stars stage director Alex Rudzinski.

Pulling off a live televised musical, however, relies heavily on a cast with enough stage experience to remain near flawless plus the star power to attract an audience of millions.

Julianne Hough, one half of America's most famous brother-sister dance duo, steps into the iconic roll of virgin turned temptress Sandy. People might forget after watching the bubbly blonde hoof it all over Dancing With the Stars that she is also a country singer who even got a rising star award from the Academy of Country Music in 2009.

In the role of Danny Zuko will be Graceland's Aaron Tveit, who held his own during the revolution in 2012's Les Miserables.

But Danny and Sandy are sort of just window dressing in this show. The stand-out numbers in Grease all belong to special guests and supporting actors.

Kicking things off will be Brit-pop star Jessie J to sing Grease is the Word from the original 1978 film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Big Time Rush's Carlos PenaVega will belt the innuendo-filled Greased Lighting as bad boy Kenickie. And multi-Grammy winning R&B supergroup Boyz II Men will step into the shoes of Teen Angel to advise Frenchie (Carly Rae Jepsen) about her life as a Beauty School Dropout.

Casting directors also stepped out of the box a few times, casting High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens as the saucy teen with the pregnancy scare, Rizzo. Scream Queens' Keke Palmer plays flirty girl extraordinaire Marty Maraschino, lending some multi-cultural casting to the historically white group.

Solid casting aside, there are myriad places that Grease: Live can go wrong, and promos and teasers tell us they might be already on the way. Because Grease fans are familiar with the film's staging on an actual high school campus, the live musical will be performed on multiple soundstages during the two-hour show. There will be a studio audience, but it's unclear if ambient crowd noise will be heard.

Multiple stages sucked the life out of NBC's The Sound of Music Live in 2013 and Peter Pan Live in 2014 because the actors seemed perpetually rushed about moving from set to set. And not having an audience was the one ding every critic seemed to have against NBC's best reviewed live musical, 2015's The Wiz Live.

But producers have also gotten a few things right, such as airing the show in the programming desert of January's last weekend with only the NFL Pro Bowl on ESPN as competition. They've also tried jamming an original song into the live musical to differentiate it from the productions everyone has been seeing at the local middle school since time immemorial.

Jepsen's Frenchie gets to deliver the new song, and honchos hope it has Glee levels of success on iTunes. If anyone in the cast can sell an infectious earworm, she can.

Whether it's good or bad, one thing all live musical watchers can look forward to is watching with Twitter fingers at the ready. Live television specials have become a breeding ground to send some of Twitter's funniest memes into the annals of history.

Only time will tell if Grease: Live will be the one that we want.

     
Comments
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

The pups are an important addition to the populations of this rare Florida species, and the first red wolf births at the zoo since 1993.
Published: 05/25/18
Veterans get in free at Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and more with Memorial Day deals

Veterans get in free at Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and more with Memorial Day deals

Memorial Day is a time to say "thank you" to our veterans. The following is a list of free offers for them to enjoy. Some even last all summer.• Busch Gardens and SeaWorld are offering U.S. veterans and up to three guests get free admission to the th...
Published: 05/25/18
Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

SAFETY HARBOR — Denis Phillips cracks a pop-top and pulls a can that looks a lot like him to his lips."It’s got that citrusy feel to it," he says. "Which is a Florida thing. That’s not bad." Indeed, there’s a grapefruit finish to Rule #7 Hurricane Sa...
Published: 05/25/18
Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

It’s where former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams had lunch with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.It’s where University of South Florida fans often gathered to watch the program’s biggest road games.It’s where folks showed up in...
Published: 05/24/18
Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women have accused actor Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior on-set, at his production company, and during press junkets, according to a report.CNN reports that 16 people have spoken out against Freeman’s alleged misco...
Published: 05/24/18
Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

TAMPA — The Ballet Nacional de Cuba performed Giselle, its signature ballet, on Wednesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Fifty-four dancers charmed a packed house, culminating in about two hours an effort that took more tha...
Published: 05/24/18
Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Lakeland’s a little out of the way, but I’m always eager to check out the bar scene there when passing through or attending an event. Every place I’ve visited just seems so pleasant.I regret missing the boat on the city’s first brewery, Lakeland Brew...
Published: 05/24/18
tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

The saga of Barley Mow Brewing Company and its eventual offshoot/successor Sea Drift Ales & Lagers is a complicated one. The most interesting part is how the latter came to be as a result of brewery-distributor tensions, in which Barley Mow pulled an...
Published: 05/24/18
Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Caladesi Island’s "crystalline quartz" sand and "sparkling clear" water left an impression on Dr. Beach, who ranked it in his annual list of the country’s top 10 beaches.Dr. Beach, or Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is a professor and director for the Lab...
Published: 05/24/18