Can you believe it’s already been eleven weeks since we were first introduced to the Grease contestants, some of whom NBC nicknamed Slacker Danny, Bellhop Danny, and Spiritual Sandy. I know, it seems like years to me, too, but tonight’s the night the curtain falls on this most recent reality television tidbit, so let’s get down to business, or should I say, show business.
As usual, tonight’s opening number is exciting and uplifting. The entire cast has rejoined our final four to sing a rousing rendition of We’ll Always Be Together. This is a fast-paced number where the lyrics are the equivalent of tongue twisters, and their dance moves and snappy hand movements are well synchronized. I’d love to know how many rehearsals there were to get everything just right because I can assure you, it doesn’t look easy.
It’s probably a good thing tonight is the finale, because it would appear Host Denise has run out of clothes, and has created a skirt out of tin foil. Perhaps realizing her stint on a weekly television show is about to end, I believe she’s opting for a position on the next season of Project Runway. If they have a challenge, Design a Dress Using Everyday Kitchen Items, she’ll definitely give her competitors a run for their money. In the meantime, she lovingly refers to the judges as the “completely powerless panel,” as they sit on their thrones ready to observe America’s voting results.
Judge David sums up the final two Danny’s as follows: Austin = Tom Cruise, Max = Ben Stiller. He elaborates further by saying that Austin is a fantastic professional performer whereas Max is a quirky comedian with bundles of heart. Hm, I probably agree with him about Austin being comparable to Tom Cruise, as I find Tom pretty smarmy, too. However I’m not quite feeling the Max/Ben Stiller comparison, but rather see Max as more of a Tom Hanks kind of character.
In comparing Ashley and Laura, Judge Jim says Ashley is more like the Sandy at the end of the show, whereas Laura is more like the Sandy as seen during the majority of the show. Judge Kathleen thinks Ashley is lovely and beautiful, and says there’s something rather “goddess” about her. She says Laura is a more down-to-earth type of Sandy. Basically, I think the judges are in agreement that no matter who is chosen as Danny and Sandy, they’ll all be quite happy.
What’s A Finale Without One Last Sappy Walk Down Memory Lane
You seasoned viewers know this is a 10-minute program that needs to be stretched to a full 60 minutes, so what better way to do that than with old footage from the “biggest open casting call in theater history.” There are lots of faces I don’t remember, but there are a few that we’ve come to recognize…jilted lover Matt, Juliana and of course Olivia Newton-John, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rob Marshall. We’re also shown clips of the 14 contestants as they were axed week after week: Matt, Ashley Anderson, Jason, Juliana, Kevin, Kate, Kathleen, Chad, Allie, and Derek. Ah, Derek, I pause the tape and get lost gazing into those gorgeous eyes of his…oh, oops, sorry. *sigh*
The Final Four - Max, Ashley, Austin and Laura
The Fab Four sing You’re The One That I Want with Ashley and Max paired up vs. Austin and Laura. I do love this music, and all four of them have such a great time performing, it’s easy to relax and enjoy their performance. I’m still amazed that there are people in the world who can dance down a flight of stairs while singing without so much as a glance at their feet, and our final four do just that with great skill. I have a tendency to get hung up on trivial details at times, and I wonder if they practice running up and down stairs, and/or if they count the number of stairs in their heads as they sing the lyrics. Am I the only one who appreciates their stair competence?
Judge Kathleen says she’s exceptionally proud of the growth each of them has shown, and says they’re all spectacular. Judge Jim says it’s been a real test of endurance for the competitors, and they’ve all handled it beautifully. Jim tell us that Barry Bostwick (perhaps best known as the bumbling Mayor Winston on Spin City) was the original Danny Zuko, and that he told Jim he never could have survived a grueling audition such as this. Judge David advises whoever is chosen for the roles should stay true to who they are and stay focused.
Buddies? When Did That Happen?
Week after week NBC has gone to great lengths to show the competitors taking swipes at each other behind their backs, but suddenly Billy informs us that Austin and Max are best buds. Austin conveys his sharp intellect by confirming only one will win the part of Danny, but he adds this show has given all of them good exposure for future possibilities. Max agrees saying it hasn’t come down to who will win or lose, but who will win or not win which elicits a huge laugh from Austin and the live audience.
Ashley sums up her experience by saying this has been extremely stressful, but having God in her life and being surrounded by such great people has made it easier. Laura says it’s now out of their control, and they’ve just got to hang on a little longer.
Back For A Final Curtain Call
The performers who have been previously given the heave-ho, return for a rousing version of Hand Jive, and I quickly scan the group for Derek -- ah, there he is. *sigh* As the song ends, the crowd goes wild showering them with applause and cheers. Me? I’m directing all my applause and cheers to you, Derek. *sigh*
It All Comes Down To This
In order to kill more time, Billy introduces another walk down the Ashley Memory Lane. We watch as fresh-as-a-daisy Ashley sings Hopelessly Devoted for her first audition song so many months ago. Judge Kathleen may talk about how much they’ve all grown, but it’s made abundantly clear simply by observing Ashley’s tape because she actually looks at least five years younger - or more specifically - four and a half years younger. Ashley realized early on they liked her look, but she also knew she’d need to impress them with her talent, so she worked hard at Grease Academy and feels she did well. However, when her Boots performance was criticized, she understood the need to “go big.” She tells Denise she’d be honored if America chose her as their Sandy.
Denise asks Ashley’s mom and dad, who are in the audience, why they feel their little girl deserves the role, and Mom says Ashley has been preparing to be a Broadway star all her life. Dad adds it’s been nerve-wracking to watch his little girl during this process, but at the same time it’s been a wonderful experience. Mom’s favorite performance was the duet Ashley shared with Max.
A quick flashback to Laura’s original audition, and she looks about three and three-quarter years younger. She says she was intimidated by the thinner, blonder (blonder? You’re a brunette, Laura) girls competing against her, and was especially nervous after hearing her competitors sing. When Judge David harshly critiqued one particular performance of hers, she says she was a little taken aback, but it also motivated her to do better. She tells us when she sang Jesus Christ, Superstar in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber, she knew she was going to have to stretch herself in order to do it justice. That performance is still a stand-out in my eyes, so I’d say she was more than successful. Judge Jim loves her expressions and the way she moves. Laura wants us to know she’d be honored to be chosen for the role of Sandy, and Denise checks in with Laura’s handsome fiancÚ in the audience. He mentions that he and Laura were supposed to be married yesterday, and when he’s asked how he feels about having to postpone the wedding, I’m not surprised to learn he’s mainly concerned about missing out on their honeymoon, heheh. He does add that they’ve postponed their wedding until May 11th, and I hope if she wins, NBC will kick in for some Egyptian sheets or something. Sadly for Laura’s mom, time’s up, and she doesn’t get an opportunity to voice her thoughts about her little girl.
And the Sandy Is…
Laura and Ashley are brought center stage for the big moment, and Billy gets the honors to announce that America has chosen Laura for the coveted role of Sandy on Broadway. Denise walks over to Ashley and asks the audience to give her a round of applause for all her efforts. She’s a gracious ‘loser,’ and is escorted over to her mom for some conciliatory hugs. Meanwhile, in Times Square, New York, the following banner is featured: “Grease, starring Laura Osnes as Sandy.” Between a mix of tears and laughter, Laura thanks everyone and says her dream has come true.
Who Is God Rooting for…Austin or Max?
As we watch the footage of Austin’s first audition, he lets us know he would have been embarrassed if he had been sent home early because of his many years of training. He says the days of Grease Academy were some of the most exhausting days he’s experienced during his entire career, and he never doubted his abilities, but was nervous about Link from Hairspray being sent home early. Even though the judges saw him as a front-runner, he says they gave him some tough assignments, and that he nearly passed out when he was presented the song Ease On Down the Road. He’s very proud of that performance, but he laughs as he acknowledges his version of Fun, Fun, Fun was terrible. I’ve given him a hard time, mainly because I can’t picture him in this role, but he is very talented, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing him again sometime in the near future, be it on Nickelodeon or as a member of The Wiggles. Judge Kathleen thinks he’s very manly and has leader-of-the-pack qualities, and Austin thinks winning this competition would be a great way to fulfill his decades of hard work. Austin’s mother and grandmother are here to cheer him on, and grandma says that God gave him the talent and he’s been pursuing this as his career ever since. Mom only has a few seconds to say she’s proud of her boy.
He says being the underdog of the competition has given him the opportunity to prove himself to the audience and judges. He’s always had a fire in his belly, and he’s grateful people have kept his shaggy head on the show. We discover at one point it was between Max and Matt, with Jim adamant about not liking either one. Max admits he resisted changing his hair in the beginning because he was lazy (not a smart admission on national television, I would think), and also because he wanted to make the statement that he should be accepted for who he is, but eventually he realized it was time, and he doesn’t regret it. As the others before him have said, he’s always dreamed of being on Broadway, and he’s ready. Denise hands a microphone to Max’s parents, and his mom is obviously the spokesperson for this group, and says it’s been a wild ride, but God has favored their family. Max’s charming six-year-old brother, Jack, shouts, “Slacker Backer Forever!” and everyone laughs. Denise tells us for weeks she’s been asking him a question, and she’s going to give it one more try -- will he marry her? Without hesitation Little Jack says no, as he grins ear to ear. Billy says it’s a good thing Max isn’t competing against his brother, and for once I agree with him.
And The Danny Is…
Austin and Max take their places center stage and Billy begins to make the announcement, then pulls a Ryan Seacrest and cuts to a commercial. After the break he wastes no time announcing that America has chosen Max. Austin and Max exchange a genuinely warm hug, as the audience erupts in applause. Jim and Kathleen are thrilled, but I notice David clearly says, “wow,” which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Does he mean wow as in “wow, the underdog won!” Or is it wow as in “Oh, hell, I’ll never sell tickets with him as Danny.” Laura is shown backstage grinning wildly as the announcement is made, so at least she is pleased. Austin runs off into the arms of his mom, and they both leave the stage.
Like I said earlier, I’ve given Austin a hard time, but he takes the loss like a man, and hopefully he’ll have many fine offers coming his way as a result of this exposure. When Max sees his name in lights over Times Square, it looks like his knees weaken, and he fights back tears of joy. Jim says he’s so happy with America’s choice that he feels like calling TicketMaster right now.
One More For The Road
As soon as Max is announced the winner, he runs offstage, and it’s no wonder because the final six guys and Max are immediately back onstage performing Greased Lightnin,’ and I’m thrilled to see Derek is right up front. *sigh* Those of you familiar with the song know it’s not exactly pg-13, so there is a slight modification of the lyrics, which reminds me of The Rolling Stones and The Doors being censored on The Ed Sullivan Show. Actually I should clarify -- the Stones changed their lyrics (with Mick rolling his eyes as he uttered the changed word), but The Doors had a last minute change of heart, and sang the song as written, infuriating Ed Sullivan. He banned them from performing on his show in the future, which must have crushed them. Only not. But I digress...
Laura gets her shining moment during the song, Hopelessly Devoted to You, then is joined onstage by her fellow Sandy wannabes and Max and the guys. The group sings Summer Nights, and it’s a joy to watch them all together. Suddenly a whole new group of singers come onstage, and Little Billy announces they’re the Broadway cast that Max and Laura will be joining. The song seamlessly flows into You’re The One That I Want with Max and Laura prominently featured. Confetti cascades down as Little Billy and Denise present large floral bouquets to Max and Laura, and there you have it kids. So, are any of you planning to see the Broadway play? I’m a huge live theater buff, and would definitely go at some point if I weren’t 3,000 miles away. But since it’s not likely that I’m moving any time soon, if any of you do get to see the play, you’re under strict orders to report back here. Got it?