All right, people. Week three of "You're the One That I Want," and the show is heating up! As opposed to my apartment, which has a mean temperature of 28, I'm literally typing this in a full flannel bathrobe and two pairs of socks. What happened to Global Warming? Al Gore, the inconvenient truth is I'm fuh-ree-zing!
Back to the show, this week, after "thousands" auditioned, the top 50 went to "Grease Academy," an actual school where they had group singing, dancing and acting lessons. According to director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall, you have be able to sing, dance and act these days to make it on Broadway. She's obviously never heard of the career of (insert name of actor/actress you hate).
The show started with all the Dannys doing an across-the-floor combination that featured Austin doing his signature fierce battements, and many others doing something that looked like appropriate choreography for "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" (quite frankly, a goosestep: turn out those gams and point those feet!). Then we were off to group singing class where Billy Bush's voice over explained that "one bad note could knock them out of the competition." That kind of tension made me double up my eating of Cinnamon Toast Crunch until the next commercial.
Ashley, who I gave a shout out to the first week, sounded faboo! And had the nerve to be a brilliant dancer! I say Brava! Annoyingly, there was absolutely no mention of the music staff who was seen repeatedly on camera. It was none than music director David Chase and vocal coach (and composer) Georgia Stitt. Throughout the show, there were mini interviews with contestants, and I was continually obsessed with Juliana (understudy Millie on the national tour and not simply an "office temp" as the chyron under her name proclaimed), who would once in a while throw in a British accent. Is she part British? Did she think adding the accent would get her a leg up on the role because Olivia Newton-John was Australian? Was she simply trying to emulate Madonna? We then saw the female dance class. All the potential Sandys had to do an across-the-floor combination that begs the question: When does Sandy ever do Movin' Out style dancing in Grease/ Let's think of her "track": In "Summer Nights" she's a nerd, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" is a ballad, she's not in "We Go Together," and she stays home from the prom. Hmmm . . . I guess she'll symbolically put on her Capezios when she sings "You're the One That I Want." But will there actually be a dance break where she funks out with the step they had to do: pas de bourrée, pas de bourrée, double pirouette? I certainly wasn't considered funky when I did those very steps in my high school hallway. Quite the opposite.
Then we had Danny singing class. Throughout the song "Sandy" there were weird cut-away shots that were supposed to show Jim Jacobs (the composer) not enjoying the singing, but instead they made me want to call 911 because he looked like he was having a petit mal seizure. Note to Jim Jacobs: For your next reality show, have final approval of all cut-away shots in your contract.
For some reason, the Dannys sang "Big Girls Don't Cry." Perhaps the show was considering becoming a hybrid of casting the next Grease revival and Jersey Boys bus and truck. They call that synergy. Then the producer, David Ian, got on the loudspeaker and called all potential Dannys and Sandys to the auditorium. I was reminded of the loudspeaker announcements in the "Grease" movie. Dryness, thy name is Eve Arden.
All the Dannys and Sandys were gathered because half were going to be cut. A la Vince Fontaine at the Rydell dance, David Ian was going to parade around and, if he tapped you on the shoulder, you had to leave! Everyone was forced to sing "Tears on My Pillow" over and over again til the cuts were made. And, mind bogglingly, they were all forced to sing it in the same octave, which was just high enough to make the boys sound awkward and just low enough to give Lauren Bacall a bright idea for a new audition song.
Just 24 remained for a concert where they'd all perform in groups of four, and then the final 12 would be chosen. In the audience were Barry Bostwick, the original Danny; Marilu Henner, who played Marty; and Marissa Jaret Winokur, who they listed as a Pink Lady, but FYI, also played Jan.
The men did fifties songs like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Crying," and the women did Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" and the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There." I guess there weren't any girl group songs in the fifties. There were? A ton? Oh.
Anyhoo, after the judges deliberated, the final 12 were chosen. Poor Billy Bush obviously got tired of having to say the signature "You're….the one that we want" and "You're … not Danny," and at one point completely ruined the suspense by eliminating the signature pause and tossing off a curt "You're not Danny." He obviously realized his mistake and knew he needed that pause, but it so threw him that he added it at the wrong time and literally said "You're the one … that we want." Note to sound editors: that's what the looping budget is for. My girl Ashley made it and so did my new favorite: golden-throated Kevin, who only sang four bars, but whom I am now obsessed with.
So, all you fans need to remember that next week's episode begins at 7PM (an hour earlier) and we get to start voting! Also, they teased us by saying 'they're the final 12 . . . or are they?' What the hell does that mean? Is somebody pregnant? Stay tuned!
[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.]