Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York
With this revival of "Grease," reality television finally rears its ugly head on Broadway, and the results are not pretty. Sure, numerous "American Idol" finalists and the like have frequently shown up in starring roles over the past few years, most notably Fantasia Barrino in "The Color Purple." But this is the first production specifically built around a competition show, namely NBC's "You're the One That I Want."
Starring winners Max Crumm and Laura Osnes in the iconic roles of Danny and Sandy, this production directed and choreographed by Broadway veteran Kathleen Marshall already has racked up big boxoffice numbers. The experiment seems to be a success, with the capacity audience at a recent preview greeting the two newcomers with ovations usually reserved for megastars.
But that doesn't make this ramshackle production any better. Tackily produced and utterly lacking the sort of fun comic spark that the original production and certainly the movie possessed (though not the most recent Broadway revival in 1994), this is a "Grease" that only will be appreciated by young TV viewers who don't know any better.
Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, "Grease" is no musical masterpiece. But despite its stock characters, cliched situations and silly dialogue, it entertainingly taps into 1950s nostalgia, and its score features a good number of genuinely catchy songs. Several of the ultra-familiar songs from the film have been added to this production, including "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "You're the One That I Want" and the title number.
Unfortunately, Marshall, who so brilliantly invigorated the recent revival of "The Pajama Game," doesn't work similar magic here. Her staging and choreography display little in the way of imagination, with even the normally kinetic numbers "Greased Lightnin' " and "Born to Hand-Jive" failing to excite.
Derek McLane's skimpy sets all too closely resemble their inspiration, looking like something created for a high school prom. The skimpy band is located on a riser above the stage, with its conductor Kimberly Grigsby sexily dancing up a storm in a shameless bid for attention.
As for the famous contest winners, well, Crumm is singularly lacking in magnetism. It's unfair to expect any unknown to match John Travolta's smoldering charisma in the role, but even on his own terms Crumm fails to impress with his acting, singing or dancing. Osnes is much better, displaying a fine singing voice and sweet charm that serves the role well, even if she doesn't quite convince when it comes to Sandy's brief transformation into trampiness.
As for the supporting cast, no one stands out, with the exception of the refreshingly plus-size Daniel Everidge, who delivers a killer vocal on the song "Mooning."
Paul Nicholas and David Ian, Nederlander Presentations Inc. and Terry Allen Kramer, by arrangement with Robert Stigwood
Book-music-lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Additional songs: Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott Simon
Director-choreographer: Kathleen Marshall
Set designer: Derek McLane
Costume designer: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting designer: Kenneth Posner
Sound designer: Brian Ronan
Danny: Max Crumm
Sandy: Laura Osnes
Doody: Ryan Patrick Binder
Miss Lynch: Susan Blommaert
Vince: Jeb Brown
Teen Angel: Stephen R. Buntrock
Roger: Daniel Everidge
Patty Simcox: Allison Fischer
Marty: Robyn Hurder
Jan: Lindsay Mendez
Rizzo: Jenny Powers
Sonny: Jose Restrepo
Kenickie: Mathhew Saldivar
Eugene: Jamison Scott
Frenchy: Kirsten Wyatt