Maybe the University of Kentucky's own Derek Keeling was better off not getting into the Broadway revival of Grease. The show, for which the leads were cast through the NBC reality show Grease: You're the One that I Want, opened last night, and the New York theater scribes were not kind. It wasn't necessarily that they were overly harsh to Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, who won the roles of Danny and Sandy, but that they thought the overall enterprise was safe and dull. (Copyrighted AP photo of Osnes and Crumm, above, by Joan Marcus.)
The New York Times Ben Brantley said the show about a high school felt like a show put on by a high school, "and I don't mean a high school of the performing arts."
Newsday's Linda Winer damned Crumm and Osnes with faint praise and said the rest of the show appears to have been cast to make the reality show winners look good.
The New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz says Crumm and Osnes are "Fine," then adds that fine doesn't cut it as a Broadway lead.
Robert Feldberg of North Jesey's Record says the show, "seems uninterested in being much more than the end product of a TV promotion."
The New York Post's Clive Barnes was most the most pointed critic I read in laying blame for Grease's failure at Crumm and Osnes' feet, or more to the point, the people who voted for them.
And this is sort of what you had to expect. Reality TV was not going to be welcome with open arms by Broadway critics or a lot of the Broadway community unless someone really stormed through and knocked their socks off. But there were consistent threads running through these reviews, like the actors seeming to be overdirected by Kathleen Marshall and Crumm not being a convincing leader of the pack. That was why Crumm came close to not even making the final field for the live competition, because the judges, producer David Ian in particular, doubted boyishly sweet Crumm could morph into tough ladykiller Danny. The general population that votes on reality show competitions may not completely understand that just because you're the best talent on stage -- which Crumm arguably was -- doesn't mean you're right for every part.
Of course, audiences will have the final say on this revival, and if it does indeed sell out for 18 straight years -- which is how long producers claim it would take to get everyone who voted in the competition into the Brooks Atkinson Theatre -- this may not be the last time reality TV bites Broadway.