By Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Dir. Kathleen Marshall. Brooks Atkinson Theater. (CLOSED)
Cast via the reality-TV show You're the One That I Want, this second revival of the '50s teen-film parody has its champions, but for the most part it got a sound drubbing, with most of the blame laid at the feet of director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall. There are also a fair amount of potshots or damning faint praise for audience-selected leads Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, along with a few notes of bewilderment that this show is worth reviving. NOTE: The Voice's Michael Feingold confesses his complicity in the show's success, and the Post's Clive Barnes delivers one of our favorite putdowns ever: "All told, I've seen worse," he writes, "but then, I've been attending the theater for more than 65 years, so 'worse' is a very well-thumbed comparative."
The Journal News A
(Jacques Le Sourd) "Grease" is the word on Broadway, again. And it's better than ever...It feels like a freshly minted hit: one part show, and two parts party where everybody's invited....Credit for the elegance and focus of the whole production goes to Kathleen Marshall, the director and choreographer, who was one of three judges on the TV show and who has guided its way back to Broadway...Reinterpreting dances that were made famous by Broadway veteran Patricia Birch, Marshall gives "Grease" a shiny new face, with all the requisite gloss and humor.
USA Today B
(Elysa Gardner) Grease has always been, in essence, a high school talent show dressed up as a musical comedy. So it makes perfect sense that reality TV, that subgenre that preys on the young and on amateurs desperate for attention, would be the launching pad for the new Broadway revival...The net effect is that of a well-planned nostalgia trip—aggressively cheerful, but not nearly as exhilarating as other revivals that director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall has helmed in recent years...For its target audience, at least, the new Grease delivers the market-tested goods.
Village Voice C+
(Michael Feingold) It's all my fault. You see, back when I was a small child, the Voice encouraged me to write about theater outside New York. And so, one balmy night in Chicago, I went to see a non-Equity off-Loop show I'd heard was fun, at a theater called Kingston Mines. I enjoyed myself and said so in print. Somebody apparently thought this was a good omen, and the next thing I knew, Grease had become the longest-running musical on Broadway...Despite the amount of conscious parody left in the material, the show Kathleen Marshall has directed and choreographed supplies neither comic nor serious nostalgia...Auld lang syne kept me smiling, but I felt the pang of the original Grease's absence more strongly than any pleasure I could derive from this version.
(David Finkle) Max Crumm and Laura Osnes make a cute but not instantly combustible couple as Danny and Sandy...The result is a gentle glow rather than flying sparks. As a result, the central love story simmers but doesn't have the non-stop drive and verve needed to make this expensive but under-budgeted looking reprise more than an adequate return visit to Rydell High School...Both Crumm and Osnes turn out to be much better dancers than they had the opportunity to demonstrate on the only modestly successful NBC series. Marshall...imbues the production with enough greased lightnin' to match the enthusiastic song the hot-rod-happy Rydell boys sing, but eventually the musical numbers begin to look like too much of the same hand-jive...At best a mild nostalgic diversion.
(Linda Winer) Kathleen Marshall's production...has been shined-up and de-sexed for the rich new 'tween market. How anything can be so perky and yet so bland is yet another mystery for the ages...Except for Jenny Powers as Rizzo, the toughie who poignantly believes it's worse to be a tease than a pregnant teen, the cast is a generic blur of pretend-'50s attitude and busy production numbers...The real performance happens above the sanitized stage, where a tough and terrific conductor named Kimberly Grigsby leads the band from a synthesizer while tossing her pony tail and dancing as if she means it. Dare you to watch anybody else.
(David Rooney) Dispiritingly bland...Represents perhaps the final step in the sanitization of a once-irresistible property, now drained of every ounce of the raunch and blue-collar suburban Illinois grit that gave the show its edge...The most dismal thing about this "Grease" is that, aside from the two discoveries plucked from a mediocre TV talent pool and thrust into this production, no one appears to be trying very hard. Like the drag-queeny wig slapped on Sandy when she finally conforms to the cool-kid ethos by unleashing the bad-girl within to win Danny, it all seems somewhat counterfeit.
The New York Times C-
(Ben Brantley) No one in the young cast of this revival, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, is flat-out terrible...Nobody noticeably strays from melodies, flubs dialogue or botches rudimentary dance moves...But there’s the numbing sense of performers of undeveloped talent conscientiously doing what they have been told to do and failing to claim their parts as their own...The effect is rather like one of those makeover shows in which everyday people are dressed and groomed to resemble red-carpet regulars and wind up looking like game but uneasy impostors.
Bloomberg News D+
(John Simon) This revival could be a lot more effective if Kathleen Marshall, its decent enough choreographer, were not also its mediocre director...Her adult actors are not especially adept at portraying teens. She has allowed the characters to be for the most part generic youths...Next, she has given us characters less raunchy than those of the original production, and thus also less interesting...And she errs even choreographically, in that her rigorously coordinated dance numbers convey little of the undisciplined bumptiousness of high-schoolers.
Talkin' Broadway D
(Matthew Murray) When Grease opened in New York in 1972, it burst the nostalgia bubble with a demented, contemporary attitude that so unflinchingly satirized ‘50s teen films' mores and plots that many people over the last 36 years have mistaken the book and score as legitimate...Marshall’s production demonstrates every danger that exists in taking this material at face value: Without the extra grit provided by the parody, these teens and the troubles they’re facing lack most of the laughs and all of the heat that could make such deliberately hackneyed situations...bearable for two hours. Everything becomes the real-world equivalent of an Archie comic book.
The Daily News D
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Americans may know how to choose pop singers, stand-up comics and ballroom dancers, but they have much to learn about picking Broadway stars. That's evident from "Grease," which opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The production is part reality TV, Broadway revival and marketing gimmick. It all adds up to 2 1/4 hours of likable but lackluster entertainment, so if you've seen the show before, this is not a must-see...Crumm and Osnes' chemistry is more sibling than sizzling.
New York F+
(Jeremy McCarter) I can’t remember a Broadway production where the actual show had less to do with the experience that people came to the theater to have. Partly this is because Grease barely qualifies as a Broadway musical in the first place. Combining a dud book with songs that somehow manage to be even duller, it’s really three or four good tunes amid immense stretches of dead air...By using a TV program to cast the show’s leads, the producers have made the show feel like an adjunct of the TV program, like a season-finale-plus-one...Kathleen Marshall does little to combat the blandness of so much of this material, and makes some of it worse.
New York Post F
(Clive Barnes) The misguided selection of uncharismatic Max Crumm as Danny and unexciting Laura Osnes as Sandy was achieved by the votes of viewers like you...This is where the TV show hits the Broadway fan. The musical itself...has never been a personal favorite...The new production looks cheap despite a distinguished design team...so I presume the sweetly amateurish look was the one Marshall and her producers wanted. They sure got it...The cast seems the most elderly group of teenagers around, and the look of one or two of them suggests they failed the auditions for the 1972 production but gallantly refused to give up.
The Journal News A 13; USA Today B 10; Village Voice C+ 8; Theatermania C+ 8; Newsday C 7; Variety C 7; The New York Times C- 6; Bloomberg News D+ 5; Talkin' Broadway D 4; The Daily News D 4; New York F+ 2; New York Post F 1; TOTAL: 75/12=6.25