Thirty-five years after its 1972 debut on Broadway, and almost 30 years since John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in the popular 1978 film version, Grease is the word once again thanks to the new Sunday night reality television show hosted by Billy Bush and Denise Van Outen. On NBC's Grease - You're The One That I Want, the producer and creative team of an upcoming Broadway revival of the classic American musical Grease hold auditions to cast the show's main characters, Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski (a popular BBC show, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, used the same method to cast the lead for a London production of The Sound of Music). The series began by doing open calls in Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, and from these auditions 50 performers were selected.
Grease - You're the One That I Want is quite clearly modeled after the Fox network's mega-hit talent contest American Idol, with co-producer David Ian, Grease co-author Jim Jacobs, and director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall serving as judges of the wannabe Broadway babies auditioning, doling out compliments for the talented actor/singers and scathing critiques of the tone deaf hopefuls. American Idol fans will probably find that Ian, Jacobs, and Marshall are the rough equivalent of, respectively, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul (back when she wasn't crazy), with Billy Bush and Denise Van Outen playing the role of Ryan Seacrest. In a move that further blurred the lines between American Idol and Grease - You're the One That I Want, Olivia Newton-John made appearances on both programs in the same week!
Unlike American Idol, both amateur performers and theater professionals alike are permitted to audition for Grease - You're the One That I Want, so the starry-eyed newbies have some pretty stiff competition with actors such as Austin Miller and Juliana Hansen (both of whom have done national tours of Broadway shows) in the mix.
Those who made the cut from the nationwide auditions moved on to what was termed "Grease Academy", where Kathleen Marshall and other professional coaches work with the performers on their dancing, acting, and singing skills. The top 12 graduates from Grease Academy then perform in a series of live episodes, with contestants being voted off each night until only one Danny and one Sandy remain. Former Grease performers (from both the stage and film versions of the musical) acting as guest judges and commentators on Grease - You're the One That I Want include Barry Bostwick, Jeff Conaway, Adrian Zmed, Marilu Henner, and Lucy Lawless.
Kathleen Marshall, one of the judges on Grease - You're The One That I Want, is keen to remind the television viewing audience that this TV show is not out to find raw talent, but it is in fact an open casting call, where it's expected that the trained professionals will fare much better as they already can sing, dance, and act and don't need instruction in their craft.
For the few people who haven't already seen the movie or a local high school production of Grease, the musical takes place in the 1950s and is about Danny, the classic bad boy, and Sandy, the classic good girl who falls for him. Grease's score features numerous well-known tunes, including "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightnin", "Those Magic Changes," "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," "Since I Don't Have You," "We Go Together," "Hopelessly Devoted to You," and of course the show's title, "You're The One That I Want" (the last two of which were written specifically for the film version of Grease).
It actually wasn't that long ago that Grease was last revived on Broadway. A production that ran from 1994 to 1998 famously had a revolving door of "stars", including Rosie O'Donnell, Linda Blair, Debby Boone, Mickey Dolenz, Sheena Easton, Debbie Gibson, Lucy Lawless, Brooke Shields, and Sally Struthers. Broadway tickets to this production of Grease dwindled in 1998 and resulted in the show closing - Grease failed to embed itself as a mainstay on the Broadway stage, something that Rent, The Lion King and the Chicago revival succeeded in.
This new Broadway production of Grease, headlined by the winners of Grease - You're The One That I Want, is set to begin previews on July 24th 2007 and the official Broadway show opening on August 16th 2007. Its not clear which Broadway theatre will house the production, but the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is certainly in the running.
Due to its TV exposure, Broadway Grease tickets have been selling very well. Grease ticket sales closed the week of January 8th 2007 out selling more than 1 million dollars in advance ticket sales, nearly 8 months ahead of its Broadway curtain up, making it the most anticipated Broadway show ever.