Is "Grease" the Word?: Week 8 Recap
By Seth Rudetsky
Seth Rudetsky offers his own unique spin on the eighth week of the new NBC reality show, "Grease: You're the One That I Want," which will cast the lead roles of Sandy and Danny in the forthcoming Broadway revival of Grease.
"You're the One That I Want" owes me $140.
That's how much I paid Dr. Clements to diagnose what watching the show has done to my alimentary canal. Remember all the columns detailing my late-night cereal binging? Well, that combined with the buffets on the Rosie cruise, and suffice it to say by last Thursday, I felt like I had a brick in my trachea. A quick visit to the doctor confirmed my fear: I have reflux. First of all, I used to pride myself on being the one member of Equity who didn't have it. To me, it's the Epstein-Barr virus of the millennium. Remember how in the eighties everybody suddenly had Epstein-Barr? And then, starting in the late nineties, I couldn't be at one Gypsy of the Year Competition without someone complaining about their reflux. Whoever even heard of the word before 1995? Anyway, I'm learning to control it, and by "control it," I mean not changing my eating habits at all and hoping it will magically go away.
Well, Sunday night began with a crisis. I arrived home after my back-to-back Purim benefits (has that phrase ever been written before?) and turned my TV on to discover that the first half hour of "You're the One That I Want" didn't tape! It taped an episode of "America's Next Top Model," which I love but had already seen. I was making frantic 11 PM phone calls to see if any of my friends still had it on their TiVo, but everyone had watched and erased it, or was fast asleep and outraged at my late-night request. Finally, I had to hail a cab to go watch it at my ex-boyfriend's apartment. With my ex-boyfriend. Yay! That wasn't awkward at all. I'm not saying it brought up old wounds, but let's just say at one point during the evening, I had to apologize to him for once saying that Patti LaBelle wasn't always belting. He had apparently harbored a long-term resentment about me saying that some of her high notes sounded like she was mixing. I'm not making this up. All right, on to the show.
This week was Danny week, and the boys began the show by singing "Greased Lightning," but put a new spin on it by wearing the same hairstyle worn in the original production by Adrienne Barbeau. The choreography was fun, and thankfully for them, it didn't include the tires that were rolled, thrown around and carried on the shoulders of the men in the '94 revival. And, by the way, they were real tires. For some reason, theatre technology back then couldn't build a lighter version. I'm sure hauling around all that weight eight shows a week was great for everybody's lumbar region. I guess it prepared all of those men for a role in The Lion King or a job hauling boulders in a rock quarry.
This week all of the Dannys had to work on one overall aspect of their performances that the judges felt needed improvement. It was essentially an excuse to pad the show and film some remotes, but it was fun to watch and/or make fun of. The first was Austin. Producer David Ian said that Austin has never made him "lawff." Hmmm… Just to let Austin off the hook a little, I spent a summer working at a camp with counselors from England who taught me "British humor," which is not humor at all, but simply saying the opposite of what you mean.
Me: Can you pass me those cookies?
So, in order to break David Ian's steely visage, Austin took a class at the Groundlings. That's right, one class. If that's enough to make an uptight Brit laugh, then Camilla Parker-Bowles better book a redeye to Los Angeles, ASAP. Well, Austin did some "wacky" improv, which is always fun to do when there's no audience. When he bombed on a joke, he got silence, and when he nailed a comic moment, he got silence. For his performance, he sang "Fun, Fun, Fun," which was "Not, Not, Not". I'm not saying it wasn't a cute number, but I was incredibly tense waiting for something funny to happen. Is he going to put on a funny nose? Squirt water out of a corsage? The song didn't show off his voice except when he sang the high falsetto notes. That's when he sounded great — although those soprano tones made me think of the beginning of the show when Max called him "Showgirl-ish." I agreed. Not because of Austin's performance but because he was topless twice within the first ten minutes of the show. PS, it's always embarrassing to see a man sporting a six pack in front of you when you're (a) with an ex-boyfriend and (b) shoveling take-out Chinese food into your mouth.
On to Derek. Or should I say, Poor Derek. He cracked on a note weeks ago, and not a week goes by where they don't replay it. So, in order for him to prevent that from happening again, he took some intense voice lessons combined with yoga and swimming. I appreciated the fact the viewers can now realize that being on Broadway takes actual training and not just a sitcom that ran for two years. Though, I more appreciated the shot of him getting out of the pool. Zowee! He sang "Heaven," and there was intense pressure on him not to crack, so of course, he did. But he still sounded good. To me, though, both he and Austin seem like great looking soap stars who sing well, but don't have specific personalities when they're performing.
Which brings me to Max. He was told that he needed to work on his "physicality," so he took boxing. Huh? Boxing isn't going to add three inches in girth and height. I do think he's a great performer, though he seems more physically suited to play Doody rather than Danny. He sang "Too Hard to Handle" and was fantastic. Not that he sounded vocally brilliant, but he was totally free and so interesting to watch.
Chad was told by Kathleen Marshall that he looks great in a close up, but has to work on projecting emotion to the back of the theatre. So, naturally, he took a one-day Shakespeare intensive. He literally said, "If I can master The Bard in an empty theatre, then I can master Danny Zuko on Broadway." He's right — it's a known prerequisite. There's an old theatre adage, "Knowest Stratford-on-Avon before thou attends Rydell High." We all remember John Travolta's turn as Lear before he filmed the movie. Brilliant. Chad is such a mixed bag. Sometimes his voice sounds simply solid, but then he'll hit certain notes and I'll love it (like "traveling at the speed of li-i-i-i-i-ight!")
After the Danny performances, it was time to eliminate one Sandy. Kathleen and Allie had the lowest scores, Allie having the lowest. They both sang "It's Raining on Prom Night," but, unfortunately, Kathleen didn't quite understand the words. Instead of "It's wilting the quilting in my Maidenform," she sang "It's wilting…and quilting… my maidenform." She sort of indicated that her figure, AKA her maiden form, was being wilted and quilted. Is "to quilt" a verb?
After the third week being in the bottom two, she was ixnayed by the judges. Though devastated, she looked beautiful during her goodbye song, and, speaking of goodbyes, I then bid adieu to my ex. But not before he hauled out two Patti LaBelle recordings to prove me wrong about her high notes. Unfortunately, I had to stand by my original statement. The first two high Gs he played sounded belted, but when she sustained one, it sounded mixed. I voiced my opinion, and the glare I got from him indicated we will not be getting back together. See you next week!
[Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway." For two years Rudetsky was the pianist/assistant conductor for the 1994 revival of Grease!. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.]
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