As anyone who's seen Grease knows, the musical ends with a cheestastic car chase between Danny Zuko and the leader of the T-Birds' rival gang, the Scorpions. (Or at least the movie does; the original Broadway production that predates the film simply has a rumble between the T-Birds and their rivals — the Flaming Dukes — that never actually comes to fruition.) But filming a prolonged car chase sequence is one thing for a major studio film with a Hollywood budget... and it's entirely another thing for a live broadcast from a television network's soundstage. So how did FOX's Grease Live! make the car race happen on live TV?
With some good old-fashioned movie magic, that's how. No, FOX's Danny (Aaron Tveit) and his Scorpion co-star didn't actually race their cars around the FOX backlot. But neither did they simply sit there as a painted background flashed by on a roadrunner-like canvas. Through a clever combination of flashing lights, bumpy camerawork, obscuring fog, and convincing sound effects — not to mention a committed performance by the two young men bouncing up and down in their stationary seats — the scene managed to evoke a sense of motion that was fairly effective, given all the inherent limitations.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter before the broadcast, executive producer Marc Platt was vague about the plan to create the chase, explaining that the broadcast would combine tricks from both film and theater.
You know what, we're very creative about it and you're going to have to tune in and see. We're being inventive and clever and hopefully delivering the fun. The whole goal here is, more than anything, is to deliver great entertainment with great music and great dance and great energy and great characters. At the same time, we're trying to deliver a live event that feels live and feels in the moment but it still feels like an interesting combination of more cinematic elements and live theater elements. So we're sort of mixing that all up in a bowl and coming up with our own language as you will and the car chase is part of that.
Clearly, that combination paid off. And if the chase itself wasn't enough, there was one bonus special effect waiting in the wings — one that wasn't counterfeit, either. No, there were no spikes coming out of the Scorpion's car. Even better: fire.
It may not have been a climax on the level of T-Rex vs. Indominus Rex vs. Raptor... but for a live production of a classic family-friendly musical, it more than fit the bill.
And if you still feel sad about the conspicuous lack of tire-spikes, you can always re-watch the original movie version of the Thunder Road race right here:
Images: Kevin Estrada/FOX; Giphy (2)