Grease: Live premieres Sunday, Jan. 31 at 7pm ET on FOX
Julianne Hough has been hopelessly devoted to Grease since she was a little girl.
Growing up in a creative family, the Dancing With the Stars favorite says she and her siblings loved to act out the music-filled 1978 film that starred Olivia Newton-John as good-girl Aussie transplant Sandy and John Travolta as her greaser beau Danny. And though Hough’s three older sisters arguably had dibs on the best roles, she laughs, “I was in my own world, so I was playing Sandy regardless if I was supposed to or not!”
Now Hough gets to step into Sandy’s poodle skirts, spandex pants and high-heeled slides and entertain millions in FOX’s star-filled live production, Grease: Live. Thanks to her lengthy dance career and recent Move Live national stage tour with her brother Derek, Hough says the show’s live aspect thrills her most.
“To be able to do one of my favorite roles ever and do what I love most — performing in front of a live audience — as well, it’s literally my biggest dream come true,” she says. “Those nerves and the excitement where there’s a possibility it could all go wrong, there’s nothing more exciting than the adrenaline of that.”
Top names from Hollywood, Broadway and pop music join Hough in the adventure, including stage veteran Aaron Tveit as Danny, songbird Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy, Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Keke Palmer as Marty, Carlos PenaVega as Kenickie and Ana Gasteyer as Principal McGee (a role once rumored to be filled by Newton-John herself).
Hough says that while Newton-John’s performance stands alone, Sandy and Danny’s story speaks to a longing in every one of us, allowing Hough to comfortably bring her “authentic self” to the iconic role.
“That’s what’s so cool about this,” she explains. “Sandy represents the little person inside of all of us that just wants to break out. Just because you have a wild side, that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or any less of a good girl. You can’t be that nice without a little sass! For me as a young girl looking up to her, that role was permission to be sexy and it gave me permission to feel like a woman but still not lose sight of who I am. It made it OK.”
Hough admits that growing up with the film and its iconic soundtrack didn’t necessarily make learning her lines any easier. “There’s also this scary part where it’s like, ‘Well I thought I knew all the words until I actually really looked at the words — and I’ve been singing it wrong this whole time! What?’” she chuckles. “I’m relearning it properly.”
So nevermind the prospect of a bad note or botched line. Hough says she and her castmates just want the audience to join in their own good time.
“It’s like a ‘night out at the karaoke bar’ dream,” Hough laughs. “I mean, who hasn’t sung ‘Summer Nights’ in drunken karaoke? The fact that we get to do this for real, that’s the dream come true. I don’t care if you’re too cool for school — you know all the words. Hopefully people are going to be dancing in their living rooms and singing along and feeling like they’re part of the show!”
Grease: Live premieres Sunday, Jan. 31 at 7/6CT, tape-delayed in PT.