I know it's hard to muster outrage over anything to do with a production of Grease. And I actually find myself not worried one bit over the integrity of the American theater, since who really cares who stars in yet another plastic Broadway revival? The people who shell out the bucks for that will deserve what they get, which is seeing two famous-for-15-minute nonentities attempt a two-hour singing 'n' dancing stunt.
What is outrageous, though, is how lame a TV show Grease: You’re The One That I Want is.
This is where I should disclose my guilty pleasure enjoyment of American Idol. What can I say? Deluded people proudly exhibiting their flaws to stunned silent response never fails to crack me up. But watching a cheap imitation like You’re the One makes me realize how good the FOX people really are at this stuff. Idol is brilliantly paced, immersing you in the audition room for long stretches, immediately getting you up close to both the judges and contestants. Plus, they make sure you see only the very best and very worst contestants. In You're the One they race through ten really mediocre auditions, and then break for a commercial, leaving you in suspense over what will happen to "your favorites." Favorites? I'm still trying to tell pompadour guy #1 from pompadour guy #2.
Also, the desperate stretch of using "you're the one that we want" as a catch phrase (as in "is that your final answer…") is just puzzlingly ungrammatical. That British mastermind "producer" and faux-Simon, David Ian, loves to go deadpan and pause for an eternity while staring down each candidate so we can all hang on the words after "you're….". You see, either he says, "You're the one we want to go to the next round" or "You're not it." But after the tenth "you're the one," isn't this just weird?
Okay, I'm sure no one else cares about that one.
Actually, what he really says is "You're the one going to Grease Academy." Yes, "Grease Academy" is the next round. Or as I like to call it, Sha-Na-RADA.
Finally, for a theater lover, it's impossible not to think about what must be going on behind Kathleen Marshall's calm and perky exterior. Not one of the people selected in the first episode would make it past the first minute of a real Broadway cattle call, yet she has to play ball and make nice about their few good attributes. Seriously, the talent on display was somewhere between community theater, karaoke, and prisoner rehabilitation.
Think about this: the American Idol champ gets a record contract and can then be conveniently forgotten once the novelty wears off and we wake up from the show's hangover. With these two winners, America may get to turn off the TV after the big vote, but Marshall will have to live with them for four to six weeks plus the run of the Broadway production. And, on top of that, an audience will have to suffer their performances night after night. We're not talking Fantasia or Clay Aiken, folks. There are real consequences here!
Of course, the dirty little secret may be… the ringers. As Campbell Robertson explained in a recent New York Times article, the rules are not excluding fully professional Actors Equity folks (i.e. members of the actors' union) from competing side by side with the "enthusiasts":
Unlike Idol, You’re the One is not supposed to be exclusively an amateur night. The rules of Idol require that contestants not have any current contracts or talent representation; You’re the One, on the other hand, is simply an open casting call, for novices as well as active Broadway performers. A prospective Danny in the first episode, for example, has several national tours under his belt.
But that is part of the show’s tricky balancing act. Reality television producers and viewers still love the nobody from nowhere who wins it all; the first episode puts heavy (and at times, teary) emphasis on the contestants’ personal stories. But the winners also have to hold up a $10 million musical eight times a week for at least a year, a demanding feat for a total greenhorn.
“We absolutely would love for a carpenter from Idaho to be Danny,” said Al Edgington, the executive producer of the television show. “But the reality is, they have to be able to perform. If the carpenter from Idaho does end up being Danny, Kathleen may be in trouble.”
This is where David Ian might have an interesting choice to make. As producer of both the TV program and the subsequent Broadway revival, does he go for solid dependable professional chops that will deliver a good show? Or, does he bet on the sheer novelty of "the carpenter" (what was that, some Christ reference?) approach paying off?
What, you say? Could the casting of untalented celebrities (even 15-minute celebrities) really outperform actual quality at the Broadway box office? Never.
(Or, just ask P. Diddy…)Powered by Sidelines