'Grease' on Broadway, by way of TV

The stage adaptation boasts two lead actors selected by a reality TV show. But are they the ones that you want?

Earlier this year, NBC aired a prime-time reality television program with an unusual prize: lead roles in an upcoming Broadway production of "Grease." Twelve weeks later, roughly 8 million viewers cast their online ballots for unknowns Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, who are now playing Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski on the Big Stage. So how does the pair fare? Unfortunately, Crumm and Osnes have little presence and zero chemistry – and without any romantic tension, Grease's flimsy plot drags. Osnes at least has a voice; Crumm, on the other hand, looks and sounds as if he just stumbled in from shop class. The supporting cast is made up of more experienced theater performers; yet many in the Rydell High gang appear much older than the 21-year-old leads. Kathleen Marshall's staging is flat and uninspired, and there's little "Greased Lightnin' " in her staid choreography – it's telling that the most engaging performance is by the svelte orchestra leader (visible for much of the show) who unapologetically rocks out, shaking her stuff with more conviction than the actors on stage. Ultimately this "Grease" gives one the same sense of anticlimax of attending a high school reunion, where the faded glory of former prom kings and queens make you wonder: How did these people ever win a popularity contest?

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