Is "Grease" the Word? The Final Recap

Special Features   Is "Grease" the Word? The Final Recap Seth Rudetsky offers his own unique spin on the 11th and final week of the NBC reality show, "Grease: You're the One That I Want," which has cast the lead roles of Sandy and Danny in the forthcoming Broadway revival of Grease.
Laura Osnes is... the one that we want.
Laura Osnes is... the one that we want. Photo by NBC

Ah. The stress is over. The Danny and Sandy have finally been picked, and now I can move on with my life and focus on who will be America's Next Top Model and who has the Top Design. But, before I do, let me fill you on the momentous last episode of "You're the One That I Want."

First of all, a word about expectations. I sort of thought my humor would encourage a mélange of daily e-mails requesting first dates. I saw myself having to explain to my boyfriend that it's my duty as a public figure to respond and ask for non-returnable clear jpeg photos with high pixilation. Alas, out of a ten-week period, no dates were requested. But I did get a slew of e-mails last week recommending various high fiber cereals. I'm glad to know there are so many choices with soluble and insoluble fiber. Thank you all. And I'm devastated.

The final episode began with a group number. "We Go Together" featured all the Dannys and Sandys that have been on the show. They were framed by a saxophone and bass player on the side dancing/miming his instrument. Although it worked for the original Dreamgirls in "Fake Your Way to the Top," that kind of thing always makes me super aware of my musician training. Instead of accepting it as a fun device to sass up the number, I was stymied by the fact that it was an acoustic bass being used when the song requires an electric bass, and I couldn't get past the fact that the sax was fake because there didn't seem to be a mic attached to pick up its sound. I know I'm annoying. This is the problem with having a Bachelor of Music — besides the fact that it's abbreviated as a B.M.

The other problem I had with the number was the amount of intense lights that were flashed frantically. I wonder how many epileptic fits were triggered during the final chorus. The one plus was that the number didn't end how it did in the Broadway revival. Way back in 1993, during rehearsals for the show, the late, great Jason Opsahl, who played Kenickie, was telling everyone about the hilarious "Simpsons" episode that features a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire. He loved how the last number "You Can Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers" ended with the whole cast yelling, "Streetcar!!!!" He was recounting it to demonstrate how "The Simpsons" really captured what's headache-y about musical theatre. Well, the next thing he knew, the finale of Grease! ended with the whole cast yelling, "Grease!" What was the thought behind that? Didn't people realize that it lowered the bar of the show? Can you imagine Mandy Patinkin standing onstage, making his final speech in 1979 "… and Evita's body disappeared… for seventeen years…" and then Patti LuPone jumping out of the coffin and yelling with fervor, "Evita!"

Max Crumm is Broadway's new Danny Zuko.
photo by NBC

Nor can I. Repeatedly throughout the show, Billy Bush called the initial auditions "the biggest open casting call in history." Really? What about the search for Kim in Miss Saigon? The search for Annie in the late nineties? The next search for Annie when the first girl was unceremoniously fired, devastating her as well as me because I loved her voice. The search for the Joan Didion role in The Year of Magical Thinking? They were seeing septuagenarian after septuagenarian. "Agnes, you're . . . not Joan Didion."

They showed some of the highs and lows of the competition, yet again showing Derek crack on that one note. Stop already with the crack clip! Paraphrasing Whitney Houston, "That crack is wack!"

Then the four remaining contestants sang "You're the One That I Want." I flipped out when Max sang the first "I got chills…" It's so high! He sounded amazing on that G sharp, placing it perfectly and spinning his vibrato. So exciting! I was a little taken aback by the fact that the black outfits that Austin and Max wore were crazily tight. Is Danny always dressed in a body sock?

By the by, when I was growing up, my friend Kenny Tobias didn't know how the back up went to "You're The One That I Want." It goes . . .

Danny/Sandy: You're the one that I want
Back Up: You are the one I want

But he thought it was. . .
Danny/Sandy: You're the one that I want Back Up: Give up the volleyball…

I guess it vaguely sounds like that, but, my question is, what volleyball? It takes place at a carnival. Didn't he notice that there was no volleyball to be "given up"?

Back to the show. Finally, the first moment of truth arrived. It began by showing video clips of the two Sandys. Ashley said that because she looked so much like Sandy, it was hard for her. "I was constantly trying to prove I have so much more than that." Hmmm. Though I knew what she meant, it reminded me a little of those supermodels who say, "it's so hard to look like this. Men think I'm unattainable and women think I'm a snob." Ladies, I can't feel bad for you because you're blonde and beautiful. My level of empathy ends at blonde, and once beautiful is added, all bets are off.

Anyhoo, Billy Bush took his time revealing that Sandy… would … be … Laura. She's beautiful and sings great, but I'm still totally obsessed with Ashley's voice and I'd better be seeing her on Broadway and/or in one of my benefits ASAP.

Laura and Max, the next Sandy and Danny.
photo by NBC

Then came the Danny reveal. It … went … to … Max! They showed a video montage before, and what was interesting was seeing again how Max got into the finals by the skin of his nose. He literally almost didn't make the final 12, and we saw Jim Jacobs flat out saying he didn't like him. It's always exciting when an underdog triumphs, and I think he'll be great. He's a great actor, and I love his voice. By the way, I read many places that there was a "fix," and Kathleen Marshall had "guaranteed" the role to Austin because she knew his roommate. Retraction? Anyone?

Max then performed "Greased Lightning" making me wonder if that's the way they're going to do it in the show. In the movie it's Danny's song, but in the show it's Kenickie's. If they give it to Danny, Kenickie would have nothing to sing except "Did you get very far" in "Summer Nights." Would the role of Kenickie be on a chorus pink contract? Ouch.

Oh yeah, once in the nineties revival, the Kenickie understudy was on and forget to set himself in the car before the number. So, it rolled out with no one in it (Stephen King's "Christine"?) and the Greasers tried to do the scene without him. "This looks like Kenickie's new car etc…" He was backstage obliviously chatting, and I still remember hearing the stage manager make the announcement on the backstage PA, "Kenickie to the stage, please. Kenickie to the stage." Hilarious!

This episode also revealed the rest of the Broadway cast. The only one I recognized, I think, was the talented Jenny Powers as Rizzo. She's always cast as a goody two-shoes soprano (Little Women), and now she can show her belt and bitchery! It's always fun when a good girl goes bad. Remember when Julie Andrews showed her boobs in "S.O.B."? The soprano world was rocked!

The most mind-boggling part of the whole evening was that minutes after Austin was informed he didn't win, he was forced to change costumes and sing back up for Max in "Greased Lightning." Then he and Ashley had to do the chorus parts for "Summer Nights." So inconsiderate! Aren't people allowed to cry privately backstage anymore? That, to me, was the hardest thing they had to do this whole competition It was very Fanny Brice being forced to sing "My Man" and/or "The Music That Makes Me Dance" right after Nicky Arnstein is arrested.

All right, people, the show is over, but I am not. Playbill.com has asked me to keep writing a weekly column! I'm so excited! So, I'll be back next week with more dish, Broadway scoop and low glycemic index cereals!

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[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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