Hi, again! I had to fly to L.A. this week and flew back just in time to watch this week's episode. The Delta flight I was on offered various movies, and I took the opportunity to watch "Grease" again. I think I was 11 the last time I saw it because I have a vague recollection of immediately running out to Gimbels and trying to find Olivia Newton-John's final black one-piece in a Boy's Husky.
On to the show. Week two took place in New York at The Palace Theatre. First of all, I take back last week's comment implying Denise Van Outen has no Broadway experience. She did star in the Weissler's Chicago — for a month. And, before I decide to make a sassy comment, let me remind myself that that's one month longer than I starred on Broadway.
Now then, on to the competition. This is the last city where auditions are being held, and that means that the future leads are somewhere in the mix that is going to "Grease Academy." Before we all start complaining that no one we've seen so far seems like the perfect stars, just remember that the show has mainly been focusing on people who have some kind of a story arc to exploit; i.e., the pharmaceutical rep giving Broadway a shot or the 16-year-old cutting school for her first audition. There may be some super-talented people we just haven't seen yet. For those of us who were obsessed with the first season of "American Idol," just remember we hardly caught a glimpse of Kelly Clarkson until she was in the final 12 (and p.s., when I heard her sing "You're All that I Need" the first time, I literally started to cry. She sounded amazing!)
Anyhoo, this weeks "drama" focused on a real-life couple who were in a past production of Grease together. We were told that she was Sandy and he was the Danny understudy. My question is, of course, what was his actual track? Roger with Danny understudy? Ensemble and understudy for Danny and Doody/Kenickie? Vacation swing and Vince Fontaine second cover? Details, please! FYI, when I was playing piano for Grease, at one point Hunter Foster was Roger with Danny understudy and Sutton (his sister) was Sandy! Thankfully, the guy playing Danny stayed healthy, so Sutton and Hunter never found themselves "Alone at the Drive-In Movie." The real life couple on the show both got called back, but in a reversal of their last production of Grease, he was asked to go to "Grease Academy" and she was ixnayed! And in the tradition of "reality" television, they tried to make her look completely unsupportive by cutting to footage of her looking angry when she heard that he was being asked to stay and she wasn't. It seemed fake because the camera never showed her reaction in a two shot while she was standing next to him hearing the news. It was more likely filmed at another point and edited in because each shot of her looking cranky was a cut away.
Then they tried to play up how selfish she was because she left the audition immediately and didn't stay with her boyfriend. But do we really know what happened? I asked myself, "Would I want to be filmed after having been rejected from an audition and have the prying question of Denise Van Outen thrown in my face?" No, I think I would also rush to the LIRR as she did.
Here are my weekly "Grease" superlatives:
Biggest Lie of the Week: Billy Bush's voiceover announcing that this is the only audition where complete theatre novices compete against theatre vets. Hello? Definition of open calls! "You're the One That I Want" didn't invent them.
Most Devastating Loss: Belty Anna Marie had a great voice! I was totally obsessed. After she first sang, they told her she was too poppy and mature, and Kathleen asked her to be more innocent. She took Kathleen's note and then came to the call back in full Olivia Newton-John drag including a blonde fall! I cannot believe she wasn't asked to stay. I'm wearing black all day in mourning for her lack of a call back and in honor of her first audition outfit.
Biggest Disparity Between Speaking and Singing Voice: Matt, an untrained 22-year-old jock, walked into the audition with the speaking voice of Bea Arthur but the singing range of Kristin Chenoweth. All right, I'm exaggerating for effect, but when he was first talking I was dreading hearing "Sandy" sung as "Ol' Man River" but then he totally sang in Travolta's high key. Thumbs up!
Worst Dance Music: If you still have it Tivo'd, listen to the version of "We Go Together" that they play for the dance call. Is it the karaoke version that you're supposed to mute when you sing along at home? And did all the singers come from Stepford and take an Ambien?
Biggest Biceps: Jim Jacobs got visibly excited at the bulging biceps on the arms of one auditioner, proclaiming them "Zuko arms." I proclaim them "My future boyfriend's arms" and remind said auditioner I can be reached by e-mail.
Only Professional?: Austin, from the national tour of Hairspray got invited to "Grease Academy." Not only is he the only blond Danny, but if you watch the end of his dance audition, he plays the guitar on his leg and I was obsessed with his extension. It reminded me of the old expression, "If you've got it, battement it!"
Update from Last Week: I've been in touch with the The Judy Garland impersonator from last week (Alex) who informed me that he is now 30 pounds lighter! That's a lot of weight to lose in one week! Wait, it wasn't filmed last week?
See you next week for the start of "Grease Academy"!
[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.]