NO BROADWAY AUDItion has ever come under the scrutiny of so many judges.
An average of 7.5 million viewers have been tuning in each week to watch NBC's Grease: You're the One That I Want!, the reality television show that will cast the leads in this summer's Broadway revival of the musical Grease. In TV terms, these may not be astronomical figures. But in Broadway terms, they're huge.
GREASE: YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT! / / Airs at 8 tonight on WBAL (Channel 11)
THE ONES THAT THEY WANT
Four experts in the theater make their choices for the winning Danny and Sandy
Baltimore-born producer of the original Broadway production of Grease
SANDY: Laura. She has the voice and looks (our original Sandy on Broadway, Carole Demas, was also a brunette). Laura has vulnerability (important if we're going to care about Sandy). She also can play tough, which will make Sandy's "turn" work at the end of the show. For me, Ashley wasn't real; she was "performing."
DANNY: Max. Acting was the deciding factor. The ultimate appeal and longevity of the original Broadway production were due to solid actors playing the roles. I'm willing to bet that in the acting auditions, Max, who seems more Doody (Danny's innocent sidekick) proved to be a really interesting actor while Austin, who is more the Danny type, did not. (It's interesting to note that John Travolta played Doody in the original Broadway production and "graduated" to Danny in the film.)
Casting agent whose projects have included John Waters and Barry Levinson films
SANDY: Laura. She looks like a teenager, moves like a teenager and sings with all the strength of a Broadway Baby waiting to be discovered. She was fearless and confident enough to make us see beyond her non-blondness, which is chancy, considering that Sandy has usually been portrayed as a Sandra Dee prototype.
DANNY: Max. For all the obvious reasons: vocal talent, a fresh look, offbeat moves, blah blah blah. On top of everything else, Max is just generally adorable. Given this opportunity, I feel, he will not disappoint a Broadway audience. If he does not win, we have definitely not heard the last from young Max.
Head of the theater department at the Baltimore School for the Arts
SANDY: Ashley has the vocal power and consistency to maintain her performance on Broadway. Her acting is dynamic with a sense of Broadway scale. While Laura is charming and genuine, her singing and acting are best suited, perhaps, for the musical stages of her native Minnesota. Ashley is the better mover, more comfortable with her body and more able to commit herself physically to interaction.
Danny: Austin. Neither finalist is suited for Danny, but Austin has the "chops" vocally and as a dancer. Max is unique and fun, but all that fades under the rigors of a Broadway run. Austin has the technique and the stamina. Musically, he made the words of the songs his own, while Max lacked confidence. As movers, Austin knows how to use his physicality, is sensitive to nuance and has experience partnering.
J. WYNN ROUSUCK
Theater critic of The Sun
SANDY: Laura deserves the laurels for many reasons, above all for her ability to "act" a song -- a crucial skill in musical theater. She brought heartbreak and fragility to her rendition of "Hopelessly Devoted to You," one of four songs from the movie that will be included in the Broadway revival. And, she stayed in character even when the spotlight was on her TV competitors.
DANNY: I have been a Max fan from the start and, as he has grown, so has my appraisal of him. Max has consistently proved to be the show's most solid actor and a strong singer and dancer. Though it might seem risky to cast someone with "character-actor" looks in a leading-man role, Max's talent and genuineness should win the hearts of Broadway audiences and critics. And, he and Laura both exude enough chemistry and confidence to recognize that on stage, unlike on reality TV, the focus isn't always on them.
THE ONES 'SUN' READERS WANTED
Last week, we asked readers to vote for their picks to cast Danny and Sandy in the new Broadway revival of Grease.
Your votes mirrored those of our judges -- Kenneth Waissman, Pat Moran and J. Wynn Rousuck (though not Donald Hicken) -- in discovering the charms of Max Crumm (Slacker Danny) and Laura Osnes (Small-town Sandy).
Ashley Spencer, "Ballerina Sandy": 38 votes
Laura Osnes, "Small-town Sandy": 120 votes
Austin Miller, "Hot Danny": 85 votes
Max Crumm, "Slacker Danny": 88 votes
Those of you who voted before the field on the show was narrowed down to four were prescient, too. Allie Schulz ("Baby Sandy") earned only four votes, and Derek Keeling ("Wholesome Danny") earned only 10 votes; both were eliminated last Sunday night.