I went to the Grease: Live run-through taping the day before the show was broadcast across the country. Here are some secrets directly from Rydell High that you probably didn’t catch on TV:
1. They were anticipating torrential rain for the live show.
It didn’t rain during the run-through taping that I attended, but they were performing as if it was. The opening scene was shot with umbrellas (like the one that aired) and before they filmed the carnival scene, the pavement outside was sprayed with a hose.
I’m assuming they did this in case they were forced to use the carnival footage from the run-through — you know, if they couldn’t pull it off in the rain that was supposed to pelt LA during the broadcasted show.
2. The audience were told to dress up in ’50s clothes, but were told to avoid the “costume” look.
Since the audience were such a big part of the production, everyone was required to dress in their ’50s best. However, we were explicitly told to avoid the “costume” look — NO POODLE SKIRTS.
3. There were multiple sets spread across the Warner Bros. lot with multiple audiences at each set.
I lucked out and was located on a soundstage that housed both The Frosty Palace and Rydell High’s gym. More unfortunate souls were placed outside on the metal bleachers in front of Rydell, which didn’t see much action after the first half of the show.
4. The different audiences were moved around A LOT between scenes.
There were four sets of bleachers in the gym that the audience were shuffled through during the taping. During commercial breaks, they had us moving to different rows, squeezing together to make room for cast members, and moving people between The Frosty Palace and the gym. At the end of the dance-off, everyone was moved outside for the carnival. It was some real cardio.
5. The audience were told when to react and when not to react during the scenes.
Because the show wanted to include the audience’s enjoyment and engagement, we were given specific instructions on how we were supposed to act before each scene that we were involved in. For the most part, we were told to laugh out loud, clap, and react to what the cast were doing in scenes. However, during the pep rally in the gym, we were told to remain quiet to avoid drowning out lines.
6. There were last-minute adjustments, like the “R” decal in the gym.
It was nearly minutes before the show was starting and the crew were frantically putting a darker red “R” decal on the floor to replace a mismatched bright red decal. LIVE TV, PEOPLE!
7. Being in the audience meant you didn’t see the show in its entirety.
If I hadn’t seen Grease before (more accurately, a million times), I would have been seriously confused as to what the hell was going on. Aside from the closing carnival scene, I only saw the scenes that were filmed in the gym without interruption. With that said, they did bring out TVs for us to watch, but there were two issues with this nice ~gesture~:
1. If the crew had to get the set ready for the next scene, the TVs weren’t put out.
2. If they were filming a scene near the gym, the sound wasn’t on to prevent an echo. This became quite frustrating.
8. The cast were literally RUNNING through the different sets between scenes.
As soon as a scene would wrap, the cast would have roughly four minutes to get changed and ready for their next scene — that meant a lot of frantically running around and hitching rides on golf carts. I explicitly remember Julianne darting across the gym with a shirtless Aaron after filming the opening scene of Danny and Sandy at the beach.
9. The sets were very detailed and very immersive.
Aesthetically, Grease: Live’s sets were the most extensive sets that we’ve seen so far from a live TV musical. The gym set was four-walled, making it feel more like I was inside a movie taping, not a musical on Broadway.
10. During the sleepover scene at Frenchy’s, the boys and girls were filming from two different locations.
When the T-Birds showed up outside of Rizzo’s room, they were actually filming outside on the backlot while the girls were shooting inside a soundstage. TV magic!
11. Some costume changes happened in front of the audience mid-scene.
Between scenes, I occasionally caught the cast undressing themselves as they would run off stage. During Danny’s try-outs scene, Aaron went behind the camera and ripped off his wrestling sweats to reveal his basketball outfit, then quickly ran back on camera to reveal the change.
12. Some scenes were quite confusing from an audience perspective.
If I hadn’t seen Grease before, the entire dance scene would’ve gone way over my head. As an audience member it was nearly impossible to hear any of the cast talk when the music was playing. It was definitely nothing like seeing a Broadway musical.
13. And the cast genuinely felt like they were best friends between takes.
When the cast weren’t running around between sets during the commercial breaks, they were usually messing around with each other or whispering. It made everything seem more authentic as an audience member — they were really just having a good time out there.
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