My wife and I went to see the national touring company of “Grease” at the Durham Performing Arts Center, and we both came away a bit disappointed. The show’s marketing efforts are built around having former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks play “Teen Angel,” but you may recall that his character appears only once (to sing “Beauty School Dropout”). Aside from a hot harmonica riff, Hicks’ performance wasn’t memorable, and his one-song-from-his-latest-album encore tacked on to the end of the show was, well, obviously tacked on.
The touring cast seemed more like the “B Team” than what one would expect of a first-rate touring company, and few of the actors — who portray high-schoolers — appeared to be less than 30 years old. An understudy who played sleazy radio disc jockey Vince Fontaine was the most convincing of the lot.
No matter who’s acting, however, I confess that my biggest gripe about Grease has always been the ending, in which formerly wholesome Sandy primps and pimps herself into a beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking vamp in order to win over her jerky heartthrob, Danny Zuko. I suppose it would have been harder to get a rollicking musical finale out of having Danny get a job or hit the books, but even so …
I wonder if the show hit a nerve because there seems to be an increasing shift toward the acceptance of cussing and quaffing as normative aspects of a Christian lifestyle, and I’m too straight-laced to be comfortable with it.
I resonate with many aspects of postmodernism, and I understand the importance of trying to be relevant to society, but I’m just old-fashioned enough to think finding the lowest common denominator should remain in the domain of junior high math.
[Photos from www.greaseonbroadway.com]