First, I may as well mention the fact that some time has gone by since the last post… The reasons for that are twofold. First, Connecticut, in its almighty wisdom, decided that as of November 12 (I think it was) everyone in the state needed to start using the area code on all calls, including local calls. If I think of it later I’ll have to check to see if I can find out if any other states are doing this, or if we’re the only lucky ones. So, in addition to the right royal pain in the butt in innumerable other ways, this also meant that a dial-up modem had to start dialing the area code… I figured out how to make it do this, but … it wouldn’t. I tried everything I could think of to do, and finally decided I might as well take the step into the 21st century and >gasp!< move on from dial-up. Someday I may write the highly uncomplimentary post about MSN “customer service” I should have written when I was still livid, but suffice to say they were horrendous and made it about as difficult as they could without actual thumbscrews. Hate MSN. Thing was, I didn’t have anything to switch to when I canceled them, and I was pretty sure I’d have to have someone come in to do the installation, so I kept putting off the new hookup since there was some serious cleaning that had to be done in order for a tech to, you know, find the computer. Of course, in the end it was self-install, so *facepalm* – who knew. I’m back online now, and marveling at the wonder that is the ability to watch YouTube on my own computer, and wondering at the marvel that is watching tv episodes online. Such fun.
Now, that last post I made was on the 14th – and I can certainly confess now that it was made from work. And that was the last one, and was going to be the last one, because I’m not stupid and I needed (note past tense) my job. I had a lot to do, and no time for it anyway. So that wasn’t the reason for my losing that job on December 4… It’s kind of unclear just what the reason was, though. I suppose given the public nature of the ‘net I’m wiser not to go into detail, but … someday. Still, I’m able to collect, and when all’s said and done I’m relieved. Which is not to say I’m bitterness-free. Oh, no.
Back to the post title. My sister gave me an early Christmas present tonight: she and The Kid and I went to see Taylor Hicks in Grease at what used to be the Oakdale Theatre. That’s how it’s billed: Grease, with Taylor Hicks!!
Now, I’ve never seen Grease. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but when I think “musical” I think Rogers & Hammerstein, or Gilbert & Sullivan (I know, I know: operetta), or Sondheim. I think Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor and Julie Andrews and yes, even Audrey Hepburn. I do not think John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I’ve always loved musicals; I don’t know why I never sought out this one. Still, the fact remains that when I see “Taylor Hicks is Teen Angel” it means about as much to me as “Martin Csokas is Celeborn” means to most people: zip. So when my sister said we were going, I was interested. Overjoyed about Grease? No. Tickled about seeing Taylor live? Soul Patrol!! Woo! And we had truly great seats. Although the sign at the entrance to the parking lot – “GREASE TAYLOR HICKS” – seemed strangely inappropriate to me.
Okay. So a little before showtime, with houselights still up, the curtains open to reveal a podium set up onstage, and a man – Domenic Fortuna to be exact – wearing a pink zebra-striped jacket and leather pants – and a ducktail, can’t forget the ducktail – bounds out. He introduces himself as Vince Fontaine, DJ at WAXX radio, and proceeds to warm up the crowd.
And he was terrific. He yelled out town names looking for people from there to identify themselves, and when he ran through the few he knew asked for more: “Higganum?? What the hell is Higganum?!” Which then became the catchword for the evening. We the audience were taken section by section and given dance moves – the far right had the Twist. A volunteer was called on to demonstrate said Twist, and he picked a young girl… who turned in a full circle. Which is the way I will henceforth do the Twist if called upon to do so. Our section had “the Swim”, at which I’m pretty pitiful. Hey, to quote Fezzik, I only dog-paddle. The group at the back got an unnamed move which was basically the John Travolta-what’shername move from Pulp Fiction, so when he asked for a name I yelled out “Travolta” (appropriate given the show). But I think “the Higganum” is a much better name. So – Vince sang us several songs, was generally very entertaining, and then we were off. (Later, when Vince djed for the prom and ends up necking in the corner with Marty, he exclaimed “Let’s go – I hear it’s legal in Higganum!” Well done. And I want to use that.)
Now, we were looking at the program before the show started, and all of a sudden I said “Ace Young? Wait, no, is that a character name?” Nope. Danny Zuko was played by Ace Young from American Idol, season 5, came in 7th – the same season as Chris Daughtry and, I had totally forgotten, Taylor Hicks. Which begs the question – what the hell?! What a shoddy thing to do to the poor boy – never the whisper of a mention in any advertising I ever saw for the show. Wow. Especially since he was really very good. He wasn’t my favorite on Idol, by a long stretch; he was a little … well, to use a topical word, greasy. But he did “Father Figure” – kind of a greasy song, admittedly, but good – and – woo. That was one of the most, er, memorable performances from Idol, ever. And this role suits him down to the ground. He reminded me of Cory Monteith from Glee (with, sorry Finn, a better voice). The show as a whole was very enjoyable – but he was undeniably the star. Good on Ace.
But… Where was Taylor? I kept expecting a transfer student from somewhere (though Taylor wasn’t of an age for that kind of role when he was on Idol, and that was a few years ago), or something … And then the first act was over. Huh. It was only then that we took a look at “Scenes and Musical Numbers” and saw that “Teen Angel” showed up in Act 2, in … one song. Waitaminnit. You mean to say that with all of the Hicks-heavy advertising he’s going to be in the show for about five minutes?? Come on, he’s about a third of the poster on the left there. I don’t care what school of advertising you follow, that’s more than a little outrageous. Okay, though; we were having fun. We waited.
A little ways into the second act, Frenchy (played brilliantly by Kate Morgan Chadwick) is hanging around outside the burger joint (over the front of which is suspended a big giant ice cream cone) trying to talk herself into going in to apply for the job a sign says is open. Knowing that the song coming up was “Beauty School Dropout”, it wasn’t much of a surprise that she had dropped out of beauty school, for which she had dropped out of high school, and now she’s at loose ends and wishing for an angel to show up to guide her, like in the movies. Cue smoke rising from the big giant ice cream cone, which opens out to reveal – yes, finally, Taylor Hicks in a sparkly suit.
Your story’s sad to tell, a teenage ne’er-do-well
Most mixed up non-delinquent on the block
Your future’s so unclear now,
what’s left of your career now
Can’t even get a trade-in on your smile
Beauty school dropout, no graduation day for you
Beauty school dropout, missed your midterms
and flunked shampoo
Well at least you could have
taken time to wash and clean your clothes up
After spending all that dough to have the doctor
fix your nose up
Baby get moving (better get moving),
why keep your feeble hopes alive?
What are you proving (what are you proving)?
You’ve got the dream, but not the drive
If you go for your diploma, you could join a steno pool
Turn in your teasin’ comb and go back to high school
Beauty school dropout, hangin’ around the corner store
Beauty school dropout, it’s about time you knew the score
Well they couldn’t teach you anything,
you think you’re such a looker
But no customer would go to you,
unless she was a hooker
(Frenchy laughs hysterically)
Baby don’t sweat it,
you’re not cut out to hold the job
Better forget it who wants their hair done by a slob
(she snuggles up to him, and says … something)
Now your bangs are curled, your lashes twirled,
and still the world is cruel
Wipe off that angel face and go back to high school
Baby don’t blow it, don’t put my good advice to shame
Baby you know it, even Dear Abby’s say the same
Now I’ve called the shot, get off the pot, I really gotta fly
Gotta be goin’ to that maltshop in the sky
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
(Thanks to allmusicals.com) And back he goes into the ice cream cone, playing the harmonica as he rises. I missed what Frenchy said in there, but happily my sister didn’t: “I voted for you!” Beautiful. And that was it. I think they might have expanded the song a little from the movie – – but – that was it.
The rest of the show unfolded in the manner in which it was intended, which felt completely wrong – I mean, really? In order to get the guy and be happy in high school you have to become a slut? But, whatever, there was some good stuff. Roger and Jan (Will Blum and Bridie Carroll) were wonderful. Lauren Ashley Zakrin as Sandy and Laura D’Andre as Rizzo were mostly great. Ace and Kate Morgan Chadwick and Domenic Fortuna, as mentioned, were terrific. But Taylor is prominently billed. I was feeling kind of mutinous when the curtain fell. Somewhat predictably, after curtain calls there was an encore, a medley of the show’s songs which did include Taylor doing an abridged “Greased Lightnin'”. And then, just as a few people were getting up to leave, out came Vince Fontaine: “Ladies and gentlemen, from 1959 to 2009, with “Seven Mile Breakdown” from his latest album, Taylor Hicks!” Woo. Lovely.
It was a canny move on the part of the producers. And while it still wasn’t the quantity of Taylor I would have liked, and while it was still slimy business to advertise his appearance the way they did – I wonder how many people went just to see Taylor – AND not to give Ace any mention at all… all in all, I left with a good feeling. He’s still great fun, I’m delighted to have seen him live – and Grease was pretty good too.