I don’t know about anyone else, but I haven’t been sitting around thinking, “I really need to see Grease on Broadway again!” I saw the 1994 production — emphatically titled Grease! — more than I’m willing to admit. I saw a pre–Will & Grace Megan Mullally as Marty; Rizzos Rosie O’Donnell, Lucy Lawless, and Maureen McCormick; even Ralph Malph himself, Don Most, as DJ Vince Fontaine on the national tour.
So I approached NBC’s new reality series Grease: You’re the One That I Want with as much trepidation as Sandy Dumbrowski at a liquor-laced, ear-piercing slumber party. And now I can’t help but think of a lyric from the show’s sad “Sandra Dee” reprise: “Look at me/ there has to be/ something more than what they see.”
You’re the One actually came to us from the U.K. See, producer Andrew Lloyd Webber decided it would be the perfect way to cast his London revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein chestnut The Sound of Music, and the BBC series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was born. Viewers cast appealing ingénue Connie Fisher, she and SoM got rave reviews, and it’s a massive hit on the West End. Yet You’re the One makes no mention of Maria. Strange, since one of ALW’s co-producers — and fellow on-air arbiters — was David Ian, a.k.a. You’re the One‘s John Hurley–meets–Simon Cowell spotlight-hogging judge. (Incidentally, Ian is the one who put up the $10 million to mount the 2007 Grease that America is currently casting. Guess that explains why he’s deemed a “Broadway heavyweight,” despite that he’s never produced anything on the Great White Way.)
In addition to Ian, the judges include Grease composer-lyricist-librettist Jim Jacobs (a good-natured guy prone to laughing fits during dance auditions) and the production’s fantastically talented Tony-winning director-choreographer, Kathleen Marshall (of last year’s sleeper hit The Pajama Game). There are already some potentially good Sandys and Dannys. My personal faves? Cara the California cocktail waitress — the perky brunette with the side pony — and soccer coach/”Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” Chad. But the American Idol-like audition sequences ranged from simply awkward to extremely painful, particularly when anyone sang a Grease song. (Look how well singing “You Can’t Hurry Love” worked out for 19-year-old Chicagoan Jacqueline. Jacobs is already calling her “Sandra Dee”!)
Meanwhile, they’ve shoved sidekick/sexy British TV presenter/stage actressDenise Van Outen outside, leaving her to vamp in the Windy City coldand flirt with 42-year-old Danny Zuko hopefuls while host Billy Bush pranced around the auditions like a prize peacock. He also referred to himself as a “handsome devil” during a voiceover and went out on a limb to get a tone-deaf pretty girl a second audition. Um, Billy, you’re not the one that we want.