"Early on we settled on this idea that we could try to use and harness the energy of a live audience. That's something that we thought really suited Grease and this material and the rhythm and the music of the show," Kail told the press. He said it was about needing to "capture that feeling that can exist in the theatre."
"One of the things that we really focused on was trying to capture the spirit of … the original … companies of Grease – and that film that has had such an indelible impression on all of us," he continued. "[They] felt like a party, and everybody was invited. That's really what we're trying to do with our production."
Korins and Kail revealed that for specific scenes — like the dance in the gymnasium, out front of Rydell High and during the pep rally — real audience members would populate the theatrical world of Grease and be able to "give back" during the performance. "It’s a four-wall set, so there’s a 360 degree opportunity for us to explore where they will function both as an audience and also as the people that would be populating the outside of a dance," said Kail, adding that they will be visible on screen for the viewing audience watching the broadcast.
See Korins' rendering of what it will look like below:
Korins said that the production will be a hybrid between environmental and immersive theatre, though no audience members will be involved in the show to the point of delivering lines, wearing costumes or handling props. He said it was mainly about infusing the show with the vitality of live viewers. "There's a lot of Grease that's really funny. There's an energy and a kind of undeniable vitality that real humans give back to real humans that are performing that we want to capture and exploit," Korins continued. "I think that this medium is one that is going to be able to really show off what theatre does best and also what film and television do best."
When asked whether this is where the future of live musical theatre broadcasting was heading, both Korins and Kail were reluctant to say that a studio audience would be appropriate for every production. "Certainly, it felt right with a comedy or a show that has high comedy to have that visceral audience reaction. I think we'll have to see what comes next," commented Korins.
The design team said the studio audience will be in the hundreds, as the production is set to feature three different sound stages, each with several sets and swing sets. They were unsure at this stage how fans could get a ticket to the show, though details will likely be released soon.
The creative team for the live musical, which is executive-produced by Marc Platt, also includes award-winning theatre vets Tom Kitt (music supervision) and William Ivey Long (costume design). As previously reported, the cast for Grease: Live will be led by Julianne Hough as Sandy, Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko, Andrew Call as Sonny, David Del Rio as Putzie, Kether Donohue as Jan, Jordan Fisher as Doody, Ana Gasteyer as Principal, Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchie, Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine, Carlos PenaVega as Kenickie, Eve Plumb as Mrs. Murdock and KeKe Palmer as Marty.
Watch a promotional trailer for the TV presentation below:
Broadway writers Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins are writing the television adaptation based on the original musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, and Paramount Pictures’ 1978 feature adaptation.