“Grease” will be the word trending tonight, when the live TV event’s director will either be as cool as a cucumber backstage or pacing up and down some corridor — Thomas Kail told TheWrap that despite all his prep, location and anxiety levels are still to-be-determined.
After all, while Kail promised the very public lead-up to his ambitious production has stayed on schedule, “You don’t put your pencils down until Sunday.”
But Fox couldn’t have picked someone more up to the task, nor a hotter player in the musical theater world right now. Kail is also the director of mega-hit musical “Hamilton,” and the Broadway commodity is feeling very much in his element.
Plus, Kail’s not alone in this crazy experiment: “I have the actual best people in the world working every single part of it,” he told us.
Considering the team Fox was built around their director, that might actually not be hyperbole.
Cast-alone, “Grease: Live” is bursting with talent (and yes, youth and hotness): Julianne Hough, Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Tveit, Keke Palmer, Kether Donohue, Carlos PenaVega, and Carly Rae Jepsen all star in the small-screen production.
With an in-demand gang like and all these extra promotional requirements accompanying such a large event, it seems like coming across shared rehearsal time could be tough, but Kail believes he’s gotten plenty out of his busy actors. Of course, the show’s general likens rehearsal time to closet space — you always want just a little bit more.
Fully prepped or not, the realistic Kail is fully aware of what can happen on live television — especially with so many moving parts and all this extra attention. Raising the difficulty level, Fox implemented a few key differences from what we’ve seen on NBC’s “Sound of Music Live,” “Peter Pan Live” and “The Wiz Live.”
For starters, Kail’s got four stages — indoors and out,
“Something is going to happen that you can’t anticipate, but if you’ve done enough reps, then you also have the muscle memory to get back on course,” Kail said.
But still, we just had to ask: So, if something does go wrong, what’s that mess-up going to be?
“It’s never the thing you think it is,” he replied matter-of-factly, “So I have no idea.”
The frustrating thing will be that if something less-than-ideal does happen, the flub can’t be improved upon next time. After all, there will be no next time — even the west coast’s version of “Grease: Live” is the original run, just tape-delayed.
“This does not feel like ‘Another night in the theater,'” Kail said when we prompted him. “It feels very similar to the lead-up to your first public performance.”
“Whether you’re doing a show for 50 people or 100 people or 1,000 people, there is a moment where the audience gets introduced to your show,” he continued. “And often, when you work in theater, you have a chance to then go into work the next day and get a chance to chip away at it.”
Not this time. That said, Kail has done one-night concerts, which is kind of what this is. The only difference is, Kail may draw 20 million viewers tonight — that’d be a pretty damn big theater.
High expectations are something that the man can deliver on, however, as roughly the same number of people are beating down Kail’s doors for tickets to his other musical, “Hamilton.” When we asked Kail how often he’s been getting hit up, his response said it all: “You mean, today?” It was only 8:15 a.m. PT.
“It’s interesting who you find still has your email address,” he offered. “People that forgot to email me back seven years ago aren’t really at the top of my list.”
Speaking of online communication, as big of a hit as “Grease: Live” will likely be in Nielsen TV ratings, it will be even more dominant on social media. But, love it or hate it, you can’t troll the director — Kail isn’t on Twitter or Facebook. Never has he been more thankful for that wise life decision.
“I’m gonna try to enjoy those three hours,” Kail concluded, “and let the Internet catch up to me the next day.”
We’re sure his inbox will have him busy by morning coffee — though half of that may be a play for “Hamilton” seats.
“Grease: Live” airs tonight at 7/6c on Fox.