Hosts Billy and Denise can hardly contain their excitement as tonight’s two-hour (nooooo!) show begins --after all it’s another chance to get their mugs on television for at least one more week. I just read that Armed and Famous got smacked with the Fickle Finger of Fate, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this show is next. You don't have to work for the Psychic Network to know that when the hosts, producers, and judges feel compelled to remind us their show is important, it may not be long for this world. Personally I like the show, as I’m a sucker for music/dancing/singing, but I have the distinct feeling I’m in the minority.
The Greasy Star Search Begins
The final six Sandy’s and Danny’s open the show performing a lively rendition of You’re the One that I Want (a song I hope to never hear again), and some of them are in key, others are not. But they look like they’re having a great time, and I notice Showbiz Austin is front and center. Please tell me this is not foreshadowing, because I’d rather not see a Danny who is continually mugging for the cameras.
In an attempt to create excitement, Host Billy states that if America votes for the right Danny and Sandy the show will be spectacular, BUT, he cautions, if the wrong performers are chosen, the whole production “could go down in flames.” What’s he saying? Are there arsonists auditioning for the show? I don’t recall seeing anyone described as “Arsonist Sandy” or “Arsonist Danny” on NBC’s website, but perhaps it’s worth a second look. On top of this breaking news, I’m surprised to learn Host Billy, our resident mental giant, is responsible for the performers’ nicknames. In honor of this discovery I deem it only fair to anoint him with a nickname, too, and I hereby dub him Butthole Billy.
"Let’s see…there’s Sleepy, Grumpy, Doc, Prancer…no wait…that’s not right…er…gimme a minute.”
Judging The Judge
Tonight’s guest judge is Olivia Newton-John, and she comes on stage looking fabulous. Well, that is, fabulous from the neck down. I’m horrified to see her face has that permanently surprised, stretchy, yet puffy look that unfortunately so many actresses are sporting these days. Has anyone seen Meg Ryan lately? *shudder*
Life is a Cabaret
Derek Keeling, 26 - Wholesome Danny
Hometown: Charleston, WV
Derek was a track runner in high school, but after getting hurt found his way into musical theater which he loves. He wants to win this role for his dad, and he promises not to let us down. I’m pretty sure the quality of my life does not depend on his performance, but maybe that’s just me. He performs Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and looks relatively comfortable gyrating about the stage. His voice fades off sometimes, but it’s hard to know if it’s him, or the microphone.
Austin Miller, 30 - Hot Danny
Hometown: Alvin, TX
Austin obviously spends a great amount of time honing his craft, which happens to be his body since he’s a model. It’s hard to believe this fine specimen of a man started out as a chubby, bespectacled, goofy-looking kid, but he assures us he did. He feels stage experience is what makes him stand out from the other Danny hopefuls. Personally, I think he’d stand out better if he performed shirtless from now on. Austin commands the stage singing, Mony, Mony, and it’s obvious he has actual stage experience. He’s got the precise polish of someone (minus the fire-engine red cowboy boots, that is) who’s been making a living on stage, and I wonder if it’s fair to have him compete with other amateurs. Olivia says Austin and Derek are gorgeous, wonderful performers, and Jim thinks they’re both oozing Danny Zuko.
Allie Schulz, 19 - Baby Sandy
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Fresh out of high school, Allie has just moved to New York. She doesn’t feel particularly nervous about vying for the role because she knows she deserves it. Wearing a hot pink shirt with plunging neckline (thanks, Mr. Cameraman), Allie sings I Love Rock and Roll. Sporting short shorts, and striped boots, she struts around the stage looking confident.
Kate Rockwell, 22 - Serious Sandy
Hometown: Blue Ash, OH
Kate says she certainly wasn’t cool in high school, but feels she’s grown into her own now at the ripe old age of 22. She’s competitive and will work hard for what she wants. Looking like a mix of Meg Ryan and a very young Charlize Theron, Kate croons All By Myself. She belts it out beautifully, but damn do I hate this whiny song. Butthole Billy times her final note at 11 seconds and is all aflutter standing next her. Kathleen can’t believe Allie is only 19 because she has such ease on stage, and she feels Kate has one of the best, if not the best voice here. But she’d like to see Kate loosen up a little next week. Jim says the hairs on his arms stood up when Kate sang (that’s good right?).
The Horror of the (notso great) Comeback Kids
Judge David tries to convince us they’ve brought back two people who were cut last week, Matt and Ashley, because both were very green (and nervous), and the judges want to give them a second chance. Of course, we all know the truth is the producers of these shows just can’t let things progress without throwing in one of their beloved twists. I’ve heard the twist is actually a requirement that can be found in the handbook, Producing Reality TV for Dummies. Butthole Billy tells us he has worked overtime coming up with nicknames for them and announces their nicknames (see below) with more pride than is warranted.
Matt Nolan, 23 - Second-Chance Danny
Hometown: Rockville Centre, NY
Matt was crushed when he was bumped off the show last week, and he can’t wait to show America his talent. He gives a dreadful, off-key, uncomfortable performance of the song Pretty Woman, and as far as I’m concerned whoever is responsible for bringing him back should be sent to Exile Island…forever. I think my ears are bleeding, and I just noticed my dogs have left the room (sensitive ears, you know). Excuse me while I make sure they’re not banging their heads into the wall. Trying desperately to come up with something kind to say, Judge Kathleen tells Matt he looks great (hee), but she’d like to see him go for broke next time. Next time? Who’s she kidding? Judge David is more truthful when he tells him he had some horrid notes in the song. Oy.
Ashley Anderson, 21 - Emotional Sandy
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Laying her head on her husband’s shoulder, Ashley assures us she’s going to fight for this opportunity. The song begins, and it doesn’t take long to realize Ashley is just as bad as Matt, and she gives a pitchy (thanks Randy and Paula) rendition of Still the One. It’s obvious a much more accurate nickname for these returnees would be Tone Deaf Danny and Sandy. It occurs to me that if these two were to get the roles, the show certainly would go down in flames -- hey, I think we just found our arsonists! Judge David tells Ashley she may look like a dream but her vocal performance was a nightmare.
Jason Celaya, 31 - Boy Band Danny
Hometown: Highland, UT
Jason grew up singing in the Mormon church, and is fortunate to have performed off Broadway in New York recently. It’s apropos that he sings Faith, and he seems completely at ease onstage and has a terrific presence. Judge Jim thinks Jason was “hitting it,” but Judge Kathleen thinks he’s a little too contemporary, so he needs to watch out for that (whatever that means).
Max Crumm, 21 - Slacker Danny
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Max moved to Los Angeles two years ago, and has been fired from 14 jobs since then. He thinks he’ll be a completely different Danny than the other guys (Fired Danny?). Singing, Summer of ‘69 Max also gives a great performance, and if the young girls clambering for him at the edge of the stage are any indication, it looks like he could pull this off. Judge Jim is glad to see Max has his hair slicked back, and says his talent is growing. Judge David thinks Max is 100% genuine (as opposed to 63%?).
Laura Osnes, 21 - Small Town Sandy
Hometown: Egan, MN
Laura is currently playing Sandy on stage in Minnesota, and she’s newly engaged. She says she’s sweet, but can be sexy when she needs to be. I’ll take your word for it, Laura. She sings Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and is perky enough, but I’m distracted by her feet which are sporting some quirky Star Trek-like boots. David warns she may be too sweet and nice for Broadway -- she may get eaten for breakfast. That’s one way to get publicity for your show, I suppose.
Kathleen Monteleone, 23 - Spiritual Sandy
Hometown: Tigard, OR
Kathleen is a worship leader at her church, and says she’s counting on God to get her the role on Broadway (because we all know God loves the theater). Kathleen has chosen Suddenly I See, and sings it quite well. But she seems a little over the top for my liking, and it creeps me out when Spiritual Sandy sings the word hell. Butthole Billy asks her to give America some spiritual advice, and she replies, “when wearing Sandy spandex, do not rely on prayer alone.” My eyes roll, but Olivia is tickled by this revelation because she was sewn into her spandex pants for the movie. She says Kathleen has a lovely presence on stage, and David believes in her.
Yikes! Just what exactly are they teaching these kids?
It’s A Sandy Palooza
In order to kill some of the ridiculous 120 minutes allotted for the show, Butthole Billy conducts a question/answer segment between Olivia and the Sandy hopefuls. Ashley Spencer wonders what qualities make the perfect Sandy, to which Olivia astutely says Sandy needs to have the perfect balance of sweetness and sexiness. Sigh. Laura wants to know what Olivia and John Travolta did to work on their chemistry. Olivia’s earth-shattering answer is that he was so gorgeous and sexy, the chemistry just happened. Sigh. Allie asks if it was hard to prove herself as an actress since she was just a pop star. Olivia says she was nervous, but that can be a good thing, and she related to Sandy. When Butthole Billy asks what Sandy has given to Olivia, she says longevity in her career, and her newest album, Grace and Gratitude is plugged. Ah, now there’s the real reason for this little exchange. Sigh.
Kevin Greene, 22 - Bellhop Danny
Hometown: Greece, NY
Kevin considers himself a regular guy from a regular town, who is especially close to his grandfather, and wants to make his family proud. He is relaxed as he sings, Walking in Memphis and his voice is one of the best we’ve heard. Judge Jim says Kevin has been growing on him, and thinks he stepped up tonight. Judge David says he’s got one of the best voices of the guys.
Chad Doreck, 27 - Ambitious Danny
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Chad enjoys spending time with his family, and has been acting since he was eight. All of his friends have gone on to have Broadway careers, and he’s hoping to join them. Singing Signed, Sealed, Delivered with a comfortable grace, he is quite the showman, and is a cutie. Judge Jim gives Chad an excellent endorsement by saying if he had to cast the part tonight, he’d pick Chad. Judge David thinks Chad would sell lots of tickets to the show.
Juliana Hansen, 23 - Rock Chick Sandy
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Juliana sings in a rock and roll band, and feels she’s got some of Sandy’s sweetness and fire in her. She and her mother moved to L.A. when her parents divorced, and they shared a bedroom with five other people until she entered high school. She believes these early hardships fuel her ambition. Singing The First Cut Is The Deepest she looks a little stiff, but she has a great voice. Judge Jim thinks Juliana could play Sandy, and Kathleen says she needs to be more fun on stage. David says she wasn’t as sultry as she could have been.
Ashley Spencer, 21 - Ballerina Sandy
Hometown: Canton, OH
Ashley has been dancing since she was four, and feels it’s her strong suit. She spent her last dime coming here, and she’s ready for her big break. She sings It’s In His Kiss, and certainly has the Sandy look, but she seems annoyingly immature to me. Judge Jim thinks Ashley could play Sandy, and Kathleen thinks she’s adorable with an open quality on stage. Judge David thinks Ashley is the living embodiment of Olivia, and he wouldn’t be surprised if America picked her to be Sandy. Apparently she only bugs the crap out of me.
A Final Ruling
The troupe gets together for one final performance of We Go Together complete with saddle shoes and poodle skirts. It’s a lively performance, and everyone is in perfect unison with their hand movements and dance steps. There are some great overhead shots of the guys flinging the girls around, and as an aside, I notice Austin is front and center again.
Butthole Billy and Denise ask the panel to choose their favorites. David feels Derek is the perfect Danny, with Ashley Spencer as Sandy. Kathleen favors Austin and Allie, and Jim picks Chad and Kate. Olivia, not wanting to alienate anyone (and hinder any album sales) chickens out and says she’ll let America choose their favorite.
As they cut to a commercial break, Butthole Billy mentions a mystery guest will be on the show next time (assuming there is a next time, of course). My curiosity is aroused, and I hope the mystery guest is Jennifer Wilbanks simply because we haven’t seen her in a while.
A future mystery guest, perhaps?
Alas, we return from the commercial, and I'm sorry to say the mystery guest isn't afghan-hiding Jennifer, but the incomparable Andrew Lloyd Webber. Tune in next time to learn what he’s seeking publicity for, because you know it will be mentioned, prominently and often. If you'd like to see Jennifer as a future mystery guest email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.