Monday, August 20, 2007

Grease: Slimed By Critics

Grease: Slimed By Critics

The second Broadway revival of Grease opened yesterday to dismal reviews. Most critics took shots at the way in which the tuner was cast: via a television reality series.

Proclaiming this a "mixed bag," the Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara offers perhaps the most positive review: "As Danny, Max Crumm gives a cautious performance, vocally OK but short on swagger and sex appeal. Laura Osnes nicely gets Sandy's transformation, morphing with enthusiasm from good girl to bad babe. Check out her skintight outfit in the last scene, courtesy of designer Martin Pakledinaz. Osnes also sings well and throws herself into (Kathleen) Marshall's spirited choreography."

Charitably calling it "likable but lackluster entertainment," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News strives to find the good: "Crumm and Osnes' chemistry is more sibling than sizzling. He holds his own singing and dancing, but is short on the sexiness and swoony swagger that's part of Danny's DNA. Osnes might be the prettiest Sandy ever, and she can belt. But she's a limited actress, even playing a cardboard character....Chills don't start multiplying, antsiness does."

Citing the "lack of wit, charisma or original presence on the stage," Ben Brantley of The New York Times is anything but charitable: "With sit through more than an hour of a musical set in a high school that feels like a musical put on by a high school -- and I don’t mean a high school of performing arts....But there’s the numbing sense of performers of undeveloped talent conscientiously doing what they have been told to do and failing to claim their parts as their own....(Osnes) approaches Sandy the good girl with the earnestness of a first-year acting student doing Juliet....Every time Danny pulls up the collar of his leather jacket in a cooler-than-thou gesture, it feels as if Mr. Crumm is actively remembering this is something he needs to do."

Labeling this Grease "a rickety revival," Eric Grode of The New York Sun also dismisses: "The overall impression, then, is of a 10-year class reunion at a performing arts high school, one where the seasoned alumni strut their stuff in the solo scenes, then take breathers during the group numbers. And as a bonus, the top male and female seniors at the school get to join in as the leads, no less....Ms. Osnes offers all the cleavage and high kicks she can muster, while a delighted Mr. Crumm holds on for dear life."

Arguing that the reality show has done "little to validate the democratic election process," Variety's David Rooney zeroes in on Crumm and Osnes: "[T]hey're unprepossessingly innocuous, which is not a great quality in musical theater leads. What's more, they have less-than-zero sexual connection. In a regional theater production -- which is what this one resembles -- Crumm and Osnes might be the toast of the town; the latter's vocals, especially, are lovely and she handles the high notes with admirable ease. Basically, they're two talented kids who would be fine on the support team but have no business carrying a Broadway show. They also have the kind of tiny bodies and small, telegenic features that don't communicate beyond row C of the orchestra."

Saying that "this crass musical makes Legally Blonde seem like West Side Story" in his one-star review, New York Post's Clive Barnes blasts: "All told, I've seen worse -- but then, I've been attending the theater for more than 65 years, so 'worse' is a very well-thumbed comparative. This is where the TV show hits the Broadway fan. The main trouble with the elected stars, Osnes and Crumm -- she being a great deal better, especially in spandex, than he -- seems that the kind of chemistry between them could well discourage hydrogen from getting together with oxygen to make water."

Will all these reviews matter, given the estimated $15 million advance in ticket sales? Or will those sales dry up more quickly than spilled grease?

I'll be in the audience for this tuner on Sunday and will provide my own review shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Grease tickets.
Related Stories:
Tonight, Grease Is The Word (August 19, 2007)
Starring Roles Whether Or Not They're The Ones You Want (August 16, 2007)
Hairspray's Stunt Casting Sticks (August 14, 2007)
Broadway Grosses: Greasing The Skids (August 7, 2007)
Which Upcoming Broadway Musicals Will You See? (June 15, 2007)
Max And Laura Go Together (March 26, 2007)
Behind The Grease Paint (March 24, 2007)
Grease: The Ones That I Want (March 22, 2007)
Apparently Grease Is The Word At Ticketmaster (January 9, 2007)
Sandy And Danny: Who Are The Ones You Want? (January 6, 2007)
The Sound Of Praise (November 16, 2006)
It's A Reality: The Sound Of Music Revival Comes Alive In London Tonight (November 15, 2006)
I've Got Chills, They're Multiplying: NBC Reality Show to Cast Grease (August 8, 2006)

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At 20 August, 2007, Anonymous Eric of said...

My favorite lead was from Clive Barnes: "When I told someone I was going to 'Grease,' he thought I meant the country.

I should have been so lucky."

Oy! I hope this points towards the demise of reality casting.

At 20 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time....

At 20 August, 2007, Anonymous Gene in Minneapolis said...

I can't remember laughing so much at a Brantley review since he wrote of Linda Eder in "Jekyll & Hyde" as someone who obviously "spent her teenage years listening to Barbara Streisand records."
Also, remember, during the run of the reality show, Max referred to Austin Miller as a "showgirl" who alas may have been the better choice here..........

At 20 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Gene, I have to admit that last night when I first read Mr. Brantley's review, I was laughing mighty heartily.


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