Grease musical better than the film

Taylor Hicks - Grease

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks performs in Grease at the Overture Center. Photo Courtesy of Overture Center.

By Kimberly Thomas

Eagle Post staff

The fifth-season American Idol winner Taylor Hicks premiered in Madison December 8 as Teen Angel in the Broadway adaptation of Grease. Audience members braved more than 15 inches of snow and a blizzard warning to attend the 7:30 p.m. debut of the traveling Broadway musical Grease at The Overture Center in downtown Madison.

Mark Raumaker played the leader of the T Birds, Danny Zuko. While Raumaker’s performance was not on the same level of that of John Travolta in the original movie, it was a convincing and engaging performance. Raumaker’s performance was shadowed by that of the leading lady, Lauren Ashley Zarkin. Zarkin was first introduced to the public on MTV’s reality TV show, Legally Blonde the Musical: The search for Elle Woods. Zarkin ended up being the runner up in the competition, becoming the understudy for the Broadway production of Legally Blonde. Many members of the cast were also seen on NBC’s Grease: You’re the One That I want.

“American Idol winner Taylor Hicks plays Teen Angel, a cameo role played by a number famous singers throughout the 40-year history of the show,” Overture Center Publicist Robert Chappell said. This was a truly talented and star-studded production.

The crowd was engaged right from the beginning with the WAXX radio DJ character Vince Fontaine, played by Dominic Fortuna. It was a great way to get attention for the show and present some comedic relief. The most noticeable piece of the beginning of the show were the fantastic sets and quality lighting. It was definitely a change for The Overture Center, a greatly needed one at that.

It was evident that the cast members seemed nervous or unsettled, often many of the dances were off-beat at points and the cast was not very well-synchronized in their movements. This was only emphasized by the addition of professional dancers in certain scenes such as “Greased Lightning.” In fact, that was the scene that the cast finally settled into their roles and the show really started to pick up to the expected Broadway quality.

Unfortunately, with the Broadway expectation came the adjustment to a significantly smaller stage, or lack thereof. Sitting about 10 rows back, many audience members felt like they were attending a Metallica concert, instead of a musical. It was shockingly loud; something that should have been changed, but evidently was not taken into consideration by the producers and technicians.

Every audience member wants to say that a show they see ends on a good note, regrettably this cannot be said for Grease. While the scene “You’re the One That I Want” where Sandy gains a new edgy, seductive, bad girl look was an absolutely outstanding ending that left the viewer with a feeling of catharsis and satisfaction, it was horribly spoiled. The audience expected the story of Danny and Sandy to be over and was eager to get home, but were soon blindsided by a performance from Taylor Hicks. It was an unappealing mix of country and pop that left the surprised listener deaf.

Grease is a great recommendation for someone to see, the musical easily trumps the movie with its engaging performance. There are some high caliber performers and some that seem to fade into the set. But viewer beware, you will lose some semblance of hearing for hours after the show, and prepare to be blindsided by the lackluster Taylor Hicks; he’s much better as a scripted and unrealistic Teen Angel.

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