Okay, where to begin. First of all, this week the show was two hours long, meaning I went through double my amount of cereal from last week. But in order to cut down on my reality-show caloric intake, I forwent Cinnamon Toast Crunch and bought a health food brand called Peanut Butter Bumpers that boasts having low sugar. But for those of us who grew up on Count Chocula, eating low-sugar cereal feels like 6 PM on Yom Kippur, so I was forced to counteract my newfound healthiness by dumping tablespoons of sugar all over the four bowls of cereal I ingested. However, the sugar I used was organic, giving me the haughty air of one who proclaims that his body is his temple. Now, on to the show. . .
This was the first week the show was live. All the Dannys and Sandys performed a solo song, and the TV audience was told what number to call at the end of the show to secure their favorites in next week's competition. The first bizarre choice was showing the pre-taped intro to the show, which is the song "You're the One That I Want" and then immediately follow it with a rendition of . . . "You're the One That I Want." If there was ever a way to make sure that a song starts to illicit the inherent gag reflex one's trachea has to endure from hearing the overplayed "My Heart Will Go On," then NBC has nailed it. The fun part, though, was watching the "hip" audience clap along on the "1" and "3" just like my Mom's friends did when they watched me conduct "Dreamgirls" in summer stock.
I'll first discuss the Dannys. The first shocker of the evening came when Austin, the so-called "hot" Danny, showed pictures of himself as a teen bearing a striking resemblance to my Bar Mitzvah portrait. The hilarious part is that he has since morphed into a model with a 29-inch waist, and my awkward phase has now reached into my extreme late thirties. I don't have many comments to say about the singing on the show for several reasons. 1. The song choices by many maximized non-held notes and featured a walloping six-note range, except for some crazy soprano high notes . . . from the men. I guess if you can't get cast as Danny, try for Galinda. Come on, guys! Bring on the singing! I'd love a song that had a least one dotted half note and perhaps an F held — with vibrato! Speaking of which, I'm still obsessed with Kevin's vibrato. He sang "Walkin' in Memphis," and I love the quality of his voice.
2. The audience needs to be medicated next week. I literally heard their high-pitched Wes Craven screams more than the people singing, although at least the screams were rangier than the songs. After an hour and a half, I figured out the formula. The audience would scream for three reasons:
a. if one of the singers walked towards them
b. if one of the singers momentarily looked at them
c. if 15 seconds had passed since the last piercing scream. More reasons for group doses of Ativan: If there was a song with any sort of a beat, upstaging clapping along was de rigueur. A ballad solicited group swaying with arms akimbo. Here's some advice, audience: How about fulfilling the job description of being an audience which means not performing? No screaming, no swaying, no clapping.
The men all looked h-o-t and worked the stage. Jason, a former cast member of Altar Boyz, said that his dancing ability separated him from the other Dannys, so, of course, I was psyched to see his sassy steps during his song but disappointed to note that he demonstrated fewer moves than wheelchair bound Joan Crawford in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." Jason, you'd better shake it next week! The shocker of the week was that instead of there being a final 12, there were 14 contestants. Matt, the athlete with no theatre training, and Ashley, the waitress, came back to perform. I found this annoying because last week, David Ian, the producer of the upcoming revival, stood in front of the final 12 and made a grand statement saying something to the effect of "If there is only one true thing in this world, more certain than anything, it's that the future Broadway Danny and Sandy will be one of these 12 people." Believe me, that's pretty much what he said mixed with some of my signature paraphrasing and blatant exaggeration. Regardless, cut to this week and Matt and Ashley are suddenly back with essentially no explanation except David Ian saying, "Everybody deserves a second chance." And by "everybody," he meant only Matt and Ashley and no one else who was cut.
More about the show: They finally stopped calling Olivia Newton-John the original Sandy, and gave Broadway's Carole Demas her due. Those of us who grew up in the seventies had the Grease original cast album and were obsessed with Carole's sassy scooping on "He showed o-off . . . splashing aro-ound" and her brilliant children's TV show "The Magic Garden" ("It's nice to say 'hello'…")
Olivia looked fabulous as the special guest judge and just might have secured herself a booking on the next Rosie O'Donnell cruise when she expressed concern for her "partner" Paula, whom she said was feeling ill. Partner? Business partner? Roommate? More than a friend? Is it Australian lingo for Pilates instructor? As for the Sandys, Kate ("Serious Sandy") was great singing "All By Myself" and holding an extra long note, which sounded impressive during the song but lost all of its fizzle when co-host Billy Bush gushed, "You held that for 11 seconds!" That had all the oomph of "Wow! You just kicked your leg a full 20 degrees!" I also found it ironic that "Spiritual Sandy" had the one song where the word "hell" was repeated 15 times.
Next week, Andrew Lloyd Webber will be the guest judge! How do I know? They filmed Jim Jacobs making the call to ask him to be a guest judge, and they were also able to film Sir Andrew taking the call! I'm sure Lloyd Webber had no idea the call was coming! He just happened to pick up his phone (with a film crew standing in front of him) and realized right on the spot that he was available next week to come to America. I'm quite sure that the conversations on both ends of the phone call weren't filmed at totally different times, completely faked and the phones not even plugged in. That's just cynicism!
Well, next week also means the first Danny and Sandy will be cut. As Juliana sang, "The first cut is the deepest." Indeed it will be!