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'Grease' at the 5th Avenue Theatre - 'Little Too Slick'

The national tour of the latest revival of the 1972 hit "Grease" is at the 5th Avenue Theatre with American Idol's Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel, and while it's still silly, campy fun and a good time, it lacks the charm of other productions.  All the elements were there (and then some) but it just missed the mark by the slightest margin.  This revival is direct from the Broadway run spawned by the reality TV show "You're the One That I Want" where America got to pick the next Broadway Danny and Sandy.  I should note that the winners of that contest are not in the show (just in case you were wondering).  This cast is strictly Broadway performers and that ain't a bad thing.  The revival also chose to eliminate some of the original songs such as "All Choked Up" for songs used in the movie version such as "You're the One That I Want", "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and the title song, "Grease".  A little theater history lesson for you class, these songs were written for the movie and were never in the original production.

Now before I get to far into this I must say that I have already seen, what I consider to be, the quintessential revival of this show back in 1994 and feel it should have stopped there.  The '94 production knew what the show was about and hit all the marks.  Not only did it have amazing performers (some who had not quite made names for themselves yet such as Billy Porter, Hunter Foster, Sam Harris and Megan Mullally) but it also had the fun that should go along with this show and those performers were definitely having fun.  And yes, this was the production with Rosie O'Donnell as Rizzo but the night I saw it, Rosie was presenting at the Oscars and so we saw her understudy.  And while I love Rosie, I think we saw a superior show without her.  But I digress.

Having said that, you can see why I was a tiny bit disappointed that this show couldn't match that level of charisma.  The actors in this production are all wonderful.  They perform with amazing voices, incredible footwork, and are pretty to look at.  But throughout the show I kept feeling that I was missing something.  And the only way I can put it is that it looked a little too rehearsed.  It was like they were directed in a box and were told never to deviate from that box.  And they didn't.  Everything was where it needed to be at the time it needed to be and sounded and looked like it needed to be.  But that was it.   You can program a machine to play the violin but unless that machine can really feel what it is playing, it just comes out a bit off. 

And speaking of machines, we were definitely part of the corporate machine last night.  The show's headliner is yet another American Idol making his musical theater debut, Taylor Hicks.  Hicks, like the rest of the cast, has a wonderful voice but he was not in this show with the rest of them.  He was there to sing his one song from the show, sell tickets to Idol fans and, apparently, sell his new album as after the curtain call he performed his latest single.  He then announced he would be autographing copies of his new CD in the lobby after the show.  He had a captive audience there (not all of whom really came to see him) and he was going to make us listen.  Honestly, I felt a little cheap and used afterwards.

Now, if you are a fan of Mr. Hicks then get your tickets and get to the 5th Avenue as you are in for a treat.  But for the rest of us who just wanted a fun evening with a great old stand by of American musical theater, like I said, the show is fun but just not quite enough.  The energy, the talent, the music is all there (for the most part) but performers, enjoy yourself when you're in a classic like this.  Otherwise, you're just a machine playing the violin.

"Grease" plays at The 5th Avenue Theatre through May 30th.  For tickets and information call the box office at 206-625-1900 or visit them online at www.5thavenue.org.



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From This Author - Jay Irwin

         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting... (read more about this author)


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