It can be sort of interesting to watch the finale of a reality-competition show where the winners' names are already in the envelope to see how the producers manage to kill an hour or two, when everyone's just waiting to hear less than a dozen words. Filling that hour on the Grease: You're the One that I Want finale served to remind us exactly how far Max Crumm and Laura Osnes came to win the roles of Danny and Sandy in the Broadway revival of Grease.
Max was almost left out of the running, producer David Ian, in particular, believing that as talented as he was, he could not pull off the leader of the pack role that Danny Zuko is. And while Laura was a bit more plausible as Sandy, her early performances were not knock outs, and the show's judges openly questioned how the sweet Minnesotan would fare among the tough New York stage vets in the supporting cast of Grease.
If we can walk away feeling good about something on this show, it would be that the winners -- at least in terms of what we were shown -- were not people who clawed their ways to the top. They were good, talented people who worked their butts off to make their dreams come true. Max, in particular, grew so much in this show that though I do not like Grease, I would pay to see what another three or four months under Kathleen Marshall's direction would do for him. (Mitch Haaseth's copyrighted photo , right, of Max back at the beginning of the show really doesn't look like Max now. Haaseth also show the photo of Laura, left.) The guy is a triple threat chameleon, and it would not be surprising to see him back in the national spotlight again. (One quibble with David Ian: He called Max a Ben Stiller, and I think of him as more of a John Cusack, but maybe that's because I'm a big Cusack fan.)
Now, with the You're the One that I Want ratings, which were not spectacular, you have to wonder if a Broadway show will get this kind of spotlight again. If it does, you have to hope that maybe it will be with a bit more dignity than this show. It took one of Broadway's best-loved book musicals and turned the audition for the top roles into a Top 40 karaoke jukebox. It showed us very little about the show, the triple threat that it takes to be on one of America's biggest stages, and much of the time, it didn't seem very much like Broadway or theater. Probably none of this will improve the ratings for another Broadway casting show, but do something a lot closer to Broadway and a lot farther from American Idol.
Jim Jacobs really did sum up what the whole exercise was about when he said that Max and Laura made him want to dial up Ticketmaster. What we've been watching is a three-month commercial for Grease, and the producers hope it pays off.