Print this Page

NY Theater Reviews

Laura Osnes and Max Crumm


By Mervyn Rothstein

The leads for Grease, selected by a television audience? A sure-fire recipe for disaster. But Laura Osnes and Max Crumm do nothing to embarrass themselves or the show. In fact, they're pretty darn good.

If you happen to have tuned in to watch Grease: You're the One That I Want! on television earlier this year, you may have some interest in learning how the winners turned out.

The NBC TV show, on which the viewing audience cast the leading roles- Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski for the new Broadway revival of Grease, got consistently low ratings, but the audience was apparently large enough to attract crowds - largely tourists, it seems- to Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theater this summer.

Well, now it can be revealed. The winners- Laura Osnes ( known on the show as Small-Town Sandy) and Max Crumm(Slacker Danny) don't even come close to embarrassing themselves. Both in fact give largely creditable performances. with Osnes slightly surpassing her partner. (The nicknames, though, were one of many embarrassing aspects of the TV show. Andrew Lloyd Webber called being a guest judge on the show the worst job he had ever done- " it was," he said, " an atmosphere like a morgue.")

What more can one say about Grease? The musical has been written about for decades, and it has its supporters as well as its detractors, though there's definitely a reason the original production, which opened on Broadway in 1972, ran for 3, 388 performances. It was the record at the time for longest-running Broadway musical, lasting until it was bested by A Chorus Line. Yes, it's superficial, its happy ending comes too suddenly, and these days its gently edgy take on high school students and rock music in the 1950s seems a bit outdated. But, now as before, it's a genuine audience-pleaser.

Let's not debate its pluses and minuses, or whether Broadway really needs another revival of Grease- the most recent after all, closed less than a decade ago, in 1998- or whether it expands the theater's horizons. The answer is of course no. But the answer isn't really relevant. And yes, this revival, like the earlier one. uses two songs introduced in the 1978 movie version-Hopelessly Devoted to You and You're The One That I Want- so it isn't exactly a true revival.

Let's get down to the basics. Osnes as Sandy is adorable and charming. She sings well, as she did on TV, and her acting has improved noticeably. This small-town girl from Minnesota, who has played Sandy in dinner theater in her native state, is pretty, sweet, charming and totally believable as virgin Sandy, and near the end of the show, when she makes her transformation to bad-girl Sandy to land her man, she becomes eye-catchingly sexy and has just enough edge to be fully convincing.

Crumm also sings well and his charm and cuteness make him perfect as wholesome Danny, but he is just too nice a guy to be biggest creep of all Danny, just not tough enough to make you accept that he is the leader of the pack. But his eyes sparkle, and the young girls in the audience scream their approval.

Kathleen Marshall, who was one of the judges on TV, directs and choreographs competently, although with little imagination. Neither the dance numbers nor the revival itself break any new ground- but then, how could they? Derek McLane's sets are serviceable enough in colorfully evoking the 1950s, as are Martin Pakledinaz's costumes. And Kimberly Grigsby, a conductor known for her showmanship, dances to the music and shakes her booty ( the orchestra is behind and above the stage, fully visible) frequently and frenziedly.

And then there are the rest of the cast. The men who play the T-birds, Danny's gang, and the women who portray the Pink Ladies, their companions, are all talented performers- the best is Matthew Saldivar as Kenickie. It's just that they are men and women. All seem much too old for<