Posted on February 16, 2016, at 1:20 a.m.
by Hannah MacInnis.
On a cold Thursday night in December 2015, 11.5 million people tuned into NBC to watch Kenny Leon, among others, perform “The Wiz Live!,” setting a record for most views of a TV live musical. Now, in January 2016, “Grease Live” shattered that record with a whopping 12.2 million viewers.
The breakout cast of “Grease Live” included Julianne Hough, Vanessa Hudgens, Jordan Fisher and Aaron Tveit. The cast quickly became close friends and even at times were said to have felt like the “Greasers” and “Pink Ladies” themselves. This camaraderie only made the performance feel more genuine, which increased viewership.
Executive producer Marc Platt and director Thomas Kail are only two of the folks who were part of this massive production, which included more than 20 different sets, 650 live audience members, 20 cameras and 52 days of rehearsal. What does all this mean for the cast of the show? For starters, Vanessa Hudgens, aka Rizzo, gained 5.7 million new followers on Twitter, and America officially fell in love with Jordan Fisher, aka Doody.
According to The New York Times, “The musical moved effortlessly from different sets and sound stages, occasionally breaking the fourth wall by showing a live audience.”
Jordan Fisher, a Birmingham native, began acting at Birmingham’s Children Theatre, and “Grease Live” was his first big break.
“We performed in ‘Fame’ together with Magic City Actors Theatre back in 2010. He was always hard-working, very on top of his stuff, and he made sure to stay humble about his talents,” said Emily Odom, co-cast member with Jordan Fisher. “He was fun to be around and was always very encouraging of the rest of the cast because we had all become so close throughout that process. I’m very proud of him and happy to see he’s doing so well!”
Fisher spent years performing as an extra in various music videos and shows, and now everyone is talking about his performance in the musical. He has become the apple of many young Americans’ eyes and will likely have a growing career for years to come.
When asked about the theater scene Fisher was a member of in Birmingham, Jessica Moody of Create Birmingham said, “You can see a lot of local organizations being recognized nationally — the work at Red Mountain Theatre Company and the play writing out of Theatre Downtown, for example. Birmingham now has five theaters within two blocks, which now make up the Theatre District. You can see that continuing to grow.”
The real spotlight of this production ended up being Vanessa Hudgens, who performed flawlessly as Rizzo. What seemed to be a thrilled actress having the time of her life performing on live TV was actually a daughter mourning the passing of her father, Greg Hudgens, from earlier that day.
Hudgens got her start on Disney’s “High School Musical” and showed the viewers how she grew into the mature role of Rizzo. Her performance in “Grease Live” boosted her career and showed America her overwhelming strength. Soon after the performance began, a Twitter hashtag was created in her honor. #VanessaHudgens pulled in 90,756 tweets alone, not including the tweets dedicated to #GreaseLive.
The lead marketing and communications director of Fox network, Shannon Ryan, is basking in the glory of the positive publicity Fox received after the airing of “Grease Live.” In just eight short weeks, “Grease Live” was created, marketed and successfully aired with only the one short hitch of Mother Nature threatening to rain down on the excited cast in California.
The manpower alone needed to promote a production of this caliber in such a small amount of time is nothing short of intense, so executives and beneficiaries of the production turned to cast members to aid in promotion and marketing.
From countless Instagram posts to endless tweets, along with other forms of social media, the key players in “Grease Live” stepped up to the plate. With 2.5 million followers alone, Julianne Hough took to Instagram, posting four to five “Grease Live”-related pictures a day.
Even after the airing of “Grease Live,” the cast members are still posting, reminiscing about their experience. This is part of the reason why the musical is still gaining views — America is reminiscing with Julianne Hough and her co-actors, too.
Overall, the musical is one for the books as far as Fox and the cast are concerned. Still being rented On Demand a few weeks later, “Grease Live” is set to remain the buzz of the entertainment world for quite some time.