I’ve got some good news to pass along, next week this Hopelessly Humdrum show finally ends. One woman and one man will win the leading roles for the summer opening of the Broadway musical, Grease, and if our polls here and here are any indication, it looks like Laura and Max may be crowned the winners. Little Billy Bush can hardly contain his excitement as he lets us in on some secret backstage news: no one wants to go home. Can you believe it? I know, I’m shocked, too.
Denise announces the opening number, Rock and Roll is Here to Stay performed by the remaining three Danny’s and three Sandy’s. The contestants are paired up as follows: Max and Laura, Derek and Allie, and Austin and Ashley. It’s an energetic, entertaining number, and if you’re wondering (like I am) if there’s any significance to how they’re paired up, I guess we’ll have to wait. Actually I already know since I’ve seen the entire show, but Billy has taught me well, and I know how to drag out meager bits of suspense.
Denise and Little Billy come onstage and he kisses her hand. I’ve pointed out in previous recaps that for the most part, Denise keeps her hands safely hidden behind her back, so I couldn’t believe it when I saw Billy kiss her mitt. That must have taken great courage on his part, because let’s face it, she must be hiding her hands for some reason, right? Either that, or he’s simply caught up in the moment, and lost his head (assuming, of course, he was sane to begin with). Denise introduces the finalists: Austin (who’s got his plastic smile firmly planted in place), Derek, Max, Allie, Ashley and Laura.
A Sa-an-dy’s Going Home, And She’s In Misery
Allie, Ashley and Laura are lined up on those treacherous stairs that cause me to worry each week, the lights are dimmed, and the music is foreboding. That means the producers of the show have been working overtime to find a way to make this next announcement as dramatic as possible. Billy says Laura is safe, and she exits the stage. He then tells Ashley that after tonight the rest of her life is going to be a breeze. Well, what he actually says is that this is the most stressful night of her life…anyway she’s also safe. That leaves Little Orphan Allie, and Billy, not being one to soften the blow, tells her, “you’re out of the competition.” Denise looks like she’s going to cry and wants to know how badly Allie is hurting right now, and asks the audience to let her know she’s been fantastic. They obligingly clap to show their support.
Allie, A Tribute
We’re shown a series of clips from the past weeks, beginning with her first audition back when she was known as Alexandra. David’s initial impression of her was that she was very focused, and he felt she wouldn’t let him down. Allie admits the competition has been the most overwhelming thing that’s happened to her. Judge Jim says she’s going to grow and do great things in her life, and I have to agree. When I was nineteen I didn’t have half the talent she has. Ah hell, what am I saying? I still don’t have
half, a third, a teensy bit of her talent. She accepts her fate with a smile, until eventually Denise grabs her and they walk offstage. Good luck to you, Allie, you’ve been a spark of joy for those of us at home watching.
And Now It’s Danny’s Turn To Cry
It’s the guys’ turn to line up on the stairs facing their Grease future, as they prepare to hear who will be leaving. The lights and music are cued, Austin, Derek and Max are suitably tense. Austin is safe and milks the moment for all it’s worth, then pumps his fists and runs offstage. Derek learns that he did not get America’s votes, and will be going home. Naturally he looks disappointed. The camera pans to Judge Kathleen, and she shakes her head and appears to say, “wow” under her breath. Max is appropriately happy to be staying, but in light of Derek’s news certainly keeps his joy in check. I appreciate a classy move like that, and it endears me to him even more.
Derek, A Tribute
Billy comments Derek has never been in the bottom two, and asks if he’s shocked. Derek says no one comes in the competition expecting to lose, but he’s had a great time. We flashback to his first audition, and Judge Jim calls his biceps “Zuko arms.” One scene shows all three judges agreeing that Derek needs to go to Grease Academy, and Derek is all smiles as he sees his memory tape. He says the experience has been the best and worst thing he’s ever done, and Judge David describes Derek as having a twinkle in his eyes. It occurs to me if Full House is ever put to music (I shudder at the thought) Derek’s a dead ringer for the John Stamos role of Jesse Katsopolis (yeah, I know the character’s full name…what of it?). Derek is adorable, and with a little tear in his eye, he says he’d do it all again. Derek, you can come to my house and sing for me anytime you want. I might even be tempted to slip a dollar in your g-string if you ask nicely (what…doesn’t he wear a g-string in your fantasy?).
Billy asks Kathleen if she’s surprised he’s going home, and she’s clearly shocked because she has a case of the “so’s,” as in: he’s SO talented, SO handsome, SO terrific, she’s SO sad to see him go, the only thing that makes her feel better is knowing they will work together in many shows in the future. Uh oh, it looks like I might have to increase my offer to Derek from $1 to $5.
Back To Tonight’s Competition
Laura and Ashley go head-to-head singing Hopelessly Devoted To You. Laura starts out first, dressed in a pale yellow knee-length gown, and her voice is beautiful. Because the song takes place in her bedroom, she sings a few lines then sits down on a bed, center stage. Ashley enters, wearing her now trademark green dress, and picks up the lyrics where Laura left off. Her voice also sounds terrific -- either one of these ladies could do the part justice. As they sing, Laura strolls over to a vanity displaying a framed picture of Max. Likewise, Ashley’s vanity has a framed picture of Austin.
Laura, This Is Your Life!
We learn that Laura was supposed to be getting married next weekend, but she has postponed the wedding to be in this competition. Her fiancé Nathan Johnson (am I the only who immediately thought of Steve Martin’s character, Navin Johnson from The Jerk? “The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!” “He hates these cans!” Okay, sorry, I’ll stop now, sigh), has sent a videotape in which he says the past few months have gone slowly for him, but he’s been busy working on the wedding plans. He’s got the guest list prepared, the invitations are done, and the band is booked. He ends the tape on the bridge where he proposed during a carriage ride telling her he loves how she sparkles on stage. Laura is deeply touched and has tears in her eyes.
She’s asked to look into the camera and tell America why we should vote for her. “I’m so right for this role, and I’ve grown a lot. My passion is performing, and I can’t wait to do it on the Broadway stage. Vote for me, I’m ready for this!”
Sibling Rivalry -- Ain’t It Grand, Ashley?
Laura’s video was lovely, so I look forward to Ashley’s. Her video is from her older sister, Meghan, who is nice enough looking, but compared to perky, blonde Ashley, pales in comparison. She starts off by saying she’s sorry she hasn’t been able to visit, but she can’t afford the plane ticket. Hm, is it that, or is she simply feeling some sibling rivalry and doesn’t want to witness first-hand Ashley getting so much attention? I think the answer becomes glaringly obvious as her tape continues. She says that she and Ashley have always been like “night and day,” and adds that when Ashley “had the incident with her toe” and had to quit ballet, she went on to sing and act. Meghan under no uncertain terms, makes it clear she was not happy about this turn of events. “No, this is MY talent, you have yours (ballet), and this is my time to shine.” Good Lord, where’s the hook? Someone needs to shut this woman up -- why this footage didn’t end up on the editing floor is beyond me. As if that’s not enough, she adds that they still fight once in a while. She does acknowledge that she loves Ashley, and that Ashley is a better performer, and she feels her sister is destined to be on stage. Um, okay. Ashley is crying (tears of joy, or disappointment -- you be the judge). She says her sister’s birthday was yesterday and she wishes she could be here in Los Angeles. Well, Little Billy Bush is full of surprises, and points to her in the audience. Billy says that fans of the show took up a fund and bought her a plane ticket. I bet they’re rethinking that right about now.
Thankfully time marches on, and it’s Ashley’s turn to beg for votes. She looks into the camera and says, “I’ve been working for this my whole life. Since I was four, I’ve wanted to do nothing but perform. I’ve improved so much during this competition, and I want to be Sandy on opening night. Please vote for me.”
It’s the guys’ turn to duke it out, and they take turns singing Sandy. Austin starts out, and for the first time I notice he’s got a rather high-pitched nasal sound to his voice. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess he’s been sucking on a helium balloon backstage. Where the girls had beds as their props, the guys have the back half of old Chevy’s. It’s a shame to think someone actually cut two of these classic cars in half, but it sure looks like that’s what they’ve done. Max has a natural grace on stage, and to me, seems a little more comfortable than Austin. Billy informs us there was only a one percent voting margin between the two of them last week.
Ode To Austin
Austin feels he has the most to lose coming into this competition because he has worked professionally before. He had a nice stint on Days of our Lives, and was in the musical Hairspray. But he confesses he’s never been a “star,” and he’s tired of “subordinate” roles and wants the success of a leading role. I’ve never realized actors have biological clocks, but Austin says there’s a need to get to a certain point by a certain age or you have to give up your dream. He wants to win this for the little fat boy he once was, and says he’s afraid if he doesn’t get this he could disappear into obscurity (I’m not that lucky), and he thinks this could be his last shot at fame. I can’t tell if he really believes what he’s saying, or if it’s meant to tug at our heartstrings. He says he’s grateful for the votes he’s received, and when asked why America should vote for him, says, “even though I’ve been called a professional throughout the show, I just want America to know I’m a small-town boy with a really unlikely dream that I’ve been working for since I was little kid. This is the most important thing to me in my life.”
We Can’t Forget About You, Max
Max gets emotional as he tells us he was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis when he was in the fifth grade. He had to relearn how to use his facial muscles, which is why it’s tough for him to be in the competition and be told he’s not a conventional, handsome guy. He says his personality comes from spending a lot of time with his family and learning how to be funny from his dad, and how to be strong from his mom. We’re shown clips from his first audition, and he certainly has come a long way. Max tells us, “I’ve grown so much on this show, and I get better and better every week. This is my dream, and if you like what you see on tv, you’re going to love it ten times better when you come see me live on Broadway, so put me there. I love you.”
Mixing Things Up
Kathleen suggests that when we decide which two finalists should get the roles, we think about who we believe when singing, who connects to the words and each other.
Austin and Ashley vs. Max and Laura
Austin and Ashley sing Endless Love, one of my least favorite songs. However, I have to admit, they both do a decent job with it and share what appears to be a passionate kiss at the end of their duet. The camera switches to Max and Laura, who also do a great job harmonizing. They kiss dispassionately at the end, and Laura’s fiancé is most likely breathing a sigh of relief at home.
Austin and Laura vs. Max and Ashley
The couples are now switched up and sing the Dirty Dancing song, I’ve Had The Time Of My Life, which more recently has been mind-numbingly featured in a cruise ship commercial. Laura and Austin sing in a fairly low octave and sound great together. Their chemistry looks surprisingly genuine. But Max and Ashley are just as fabulous together, and look like they’re having a fun time. In my layman's eyes, both couples appear quite capable and the competition ends.
The judges leave us with their impressions as to who they believe is most credible in the Sandy/Danny roles:
Kathleen - Max and Laura
Jim - Max and Laura
David - Max and Laura
Austin and Ashley have to be feeling the sting of these final words from the judges, but that’s it kids. Now it’s up to you, America. Share your picks with me in a pm here, and I’ll see you next week for the finale.