12 'Grease: Live!' Burning Questions Answered From the Dress Rehearsal
Got burning questions about Fox TV’s Grease: Live? We’re here to help! Billboard was on set Saturday, Jan. 30 to watch the final complete run-through of the show on the eve of its live broadcast at 7 p.m. ET on Jan. 31. Here are burning questions about the production answered as you ramp up for the big event.
1. Just how big is this production?
More than 100 cast members populate the production, including Julianne Hough (as Sandy) and Aaron Tveit (Danny). Watch for small roles from the original Grease film’s Didi Conn and Barry Pearl (who played Frenchy and Doody, respectively), The Brady Bunch TV series’ Eve Plumb, Boyz II Men, Mario Lopez, DNCE and Jessie J. The latter kicks off the show with an elaborate staging of the film’s title song, a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for Frankie Valli.
Rehearsals for Grease: Live! began on Nov. 30, 2015 -- over two months ago. The run-through we saw on Saturday was the final complete rehearsal of the show before the live broadcast on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. Upwards of 600 crew and staff brought Grease: Live! to the screen, including director Thomas Kail (Broadway’s Hamilton) and live television director Alex Rudzinski (Dancing With the Stars).
2. What's it like seeing Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit take on the roles that Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta made famous?
Hough and Tveit are a great team and dance up a storm together. Hough’s Sandy is, as expected, sweet as can be -- but also knows her way around a cheerleading routine or two. (There’s a reason why Hough is an Emmy Award winner for choreography!) Though the charismatic Tveit has been on Broadway and on TV for a number of years, many audiences will likely discover him via Grease: Live!
3. What are the new songs for Grease: Live! like?
There’s a new song written for, and performed by, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Frenchy titled “All I Need Is An Angel.” It evokes classic pop (think: The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”) and will likely be music to the ears of Jepsen fans. In addition, we get the tune “Freddy My Love,” which is part of the original stage version of the show, but wasn’t part of the film. It’s a big solo number for Keke Palmer’s Marty, and is staged in a surprising (no spoilers!) way.
4. How do the cast members get from set to set so quickly?
As the sets for Grease: Live! are sprinkled across the back lot at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, the cast has to travel from set to set swiftly -- usually by running, and sometimes by golf carts. Occasionally there is so little time between scenes, some actors change their costumes while riding on the carts to their next scene. (As we were waiting to file in to our seats during the dress rehearsal, we spied a cart assigned to Sandy and Danny. How could we tell? Their names were written on a piece of masking tape applied to the front seat.)
5. The cast must change costumes awfully fast between scenes, right?
The cast has to make lightning-quick (pun intended) costume changes, often while running between sets. For example, as we were sitting in Stage 26 watching a scene being filmed elsewhere (but beamed to us via TV monitors), Hough and a shirtless Tveit ran past us and bolted through a pair of doors, on their way to a costume change.
6. What's the experience like seeing Grease: Live!, well, live?
Thrilling, actually. When a scene took place in front of us on Stage 26 or outside -- especially the big dance sequences -- it was full-on TV magic. As for the scenes that took place elsewhere, they were piped in through a TV monitor. Even if something was happening on another set, there was still always something happening. For example, during “Beauty School Dropout,” Stage 26 and its gym set were swiftly festooned for the hand jive dance sequence with a boatload of streamers and festive prom-like décor.
7. How expansive is the Grease: Live! set?
The live show takes place on 21 sets across two soundstages on the back lot at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif. Much of the action unfolds on Stage 26, including the “Summer Nights” number and the big dance competition sequence (with “Born to Hand Jive”). Among the movies that have been filmed on Stage 26: the musicals My Fair Lady and the 1954 version of A Star Is Born. Other films that called Stage 26 home: Auntie Mame, Gremlins as well as TV’s The Waltons, Designing Women and Two and a Half Men. (Curious as to where the original Grease movie was filmed? It was shot mostly on location around Los Angeles, though some scenes were filmed on the Paramount back lot.)
8. How did the live audience get selected to part of the show?
The audience you’ll see on TV populating the bleachers during the dance competition, pep rally, cheerleading tryouts and in the carnival finale have been recruited for the show. In the dress rehearsal crowd, we spotted a gaggle of sorority sisters from UCLA, who said they received an email from the production inviting them to be a part of the show.
9. Did any of the show’s lyrics change?
Viewers only familiar with the Grease film may notice a few differences in some of the more risqué lyrics in the show. For example, “Greased Lightning” will no longer make the chicks “cream." (That said, Rizzo’s storyline involving a pregnancy scare is still a part of the show.)
10. Did I just spot a Lady Gaga dancer doing the hand jive?
The “Born to Hand Jive” sequence is a huge show-stopping number and is just as elaborate as the film version. (It was dizzying watching it at the dress rehearsal -- there’s so much going on.) Joining the cast for the sequence (and many others) are a number of professional dancers, including Jeremy Hudson, who has danced on tour with Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. Grease: Live!’s choreographer is Zach Woodlee, who choreographed the Glee TV series and danced with Madonna on her Re-Invention World Tour.
11. Wait, are Sandy and Danny dancing in front of Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow?
If the carnival set during the “We Go Together” finale looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it on TV -- a lot. The set, known as Midwest Business & Residential Street, is frequently used in TV and movie productions, and has doubled as the fictional Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls and Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars. (As we were walking past sets and fake storefronts on our way to the finale scene, we overheard people exclaim, “There’s Luke’s Diner!” from Gilmore Girls.) Earlier on in Grease: Live!, watch for Rydell High School’s exterior shots -- the building is also Rosewood High School in Pretty Little Liars.
12. What if it rains in real life during Grease: Live!? Aren’t there scenes set outside?
>A handful of Grease: Live!’s scenes take place outside -- including the opening “Grease” number with Jessie J, a cheerleading squad tryout and the finale with “We Go Together” -- so the weather is a concern. As of Sunday morning, there was a 45-65 percent chance of rain showers during the show, according to Weather.com. The show has promised to go on, rain or shine, and has planned accordingly: umbrellas will pop up in one song and a tent will shield the exterior of Rydell High. The opening and finale are the only two sets uncovered and exposed to the elements, so that means we could see some “Singin’ in the Rain” during Grease.