NBC, You're... NOT the One That I Want!

I'm watching this stomach-wrenching new reality show on NBC (is there ever really any reality in reality shows?) through which viewers will choose the leads for the upcoming Broadway revival of Grease. Pardon me while I slit my wrists. For God's sake, kids, look who Americans chose for President! How we can trust them to cast Grease??

I can't explain, Rydell, this pain, Rydell; is it ptomaine Rydell gave me? Is it VD, Rydell? Could be, Rydell, or just those fucks on NBC...!

Grease was an aggressive, adult, alternative piece of theatre when it debuted, first in Chicago, then off Broadway, then on Broadway. It was dark, nasty, wild, vulgar, with a period-perfect score bursting with the sound of raw, unpolished 50s rock and roll.

All the creepy, overtly manufactured bombast of American Idol is here in this reality TV abomination, but somehow it seems even more offensive and more nakedly commerical in this context, almost as if theatre is being raped by TV. Yeah, but theatre asked for it.

Why do I care? And why should anyone else care that I care? Because doing what they're doing to Grease is like defacing an amazing painting or sculpture. Or like remaking Planet of the Apes really badly. Just like the Bad Men have done to Hair, Rocky Horror, Jesus Christ Superstar, and other masterworks of alternative theatre, so too will they now degrade and trivialize Grease. And even beyond that... this Pageant of Ego will also convince young aspiring musical theatre artists that the goal is being "discovered" and winning stardom, not doing good work, respecting the art form, or growing as an artist.

Watching this reality show makes me really sad. No, really. Sadder than if it was raining on prom night. Not just because I'm witness to a badly misguided revival of Grease in the making (with a $10 million price tag), but also because this Desperate People on Parade is re-convincing America that Grease is a silly, mindless piece of shit.

It's also so clear and so sad that these producers intend to put Grease the MOVIE on stage, rather than the far more interesting, far more alternative, far more honest stage version. (They're adding into the show four songs from the movie! Including the disco songs! Didn't Grease used to be about the Fifties?) I'll bet most viewers won't even be aware that there was a stage musical first and that it was for many years the longest running musical in the history of Broadway.

This new producer's ideal seems to be those belty, screamy voices we now lovingly/laughingly call "Broadway pop," a pox visited upon us long ago (back during the Second British Invasion, right before Post-Modern Ironic Detachment) by Cameron Mackintosh and his merry ilk. Of course, Grease's surviving author Jim Jacobs is complicit in these dark proceedings, a man who actually lived Grease. But it seems he's sold his soul to the Broadcast Network Satan in order to squeeze some more coin out of his baby... What would Miss Lynch say about that...?

No, I know NBC will not single-handedly bring down the American musical theatre. But it will cheapen it just a little bit more...

Long Live the Musical!

P.S. If you want to explore more about Grease, go to New Line's Grease webpage for lots of info and links.