But will they have the stamina to do eight shows a week? Grease, while fluff, is labor-intensive fluff. Ricky Paull Goldin, who put in 700 performances as Danny in 1994, says, “You have to learn how to pace yourself. I broke teeth, I broke my foot, I ripped a tricep off the bone. One night, I was taken out on a stretcher and somebody had to finish the second act.”
‘Okay, guys, grab your steering wheels and your hubcaps!” Marshall announces over the Brooks Atkinson Theater’s house speakers. It’s thirteen days before the first preview, and I’ve come to see how Operation Reality Grease is working out. Marshall’s trying to keep her cast’s critical expectations low. “It would be nice to get some respect, but we’re not a dark and serious show,” she says. “If we were doing the edgy Grease all in black with three chairs, people would say it’s radical.” As far as she’s concerned, Crumm and Osnes are “absolutely right where they should be in the process—they have a great sort of chemistry together, which, quite honestly as a director, is always a bit of an unknown.” The box office, says Ian, has already taken in over $14 million in sales, something of a cushion against potential bad reviews.
That same week, Crumm, Osnes, and I catch up over breakfast. His hair has grown out, and he has forever sworn off chain restaurants. (“The last place I went to was Olive Garden, and I was like, ‘Never again.’ ”) Osnes looks more settled, though Marshall told me she hasn’t quite taken the step of riding the subway alone. I ask them if they remember what they were doing one year ago today. Osnes was living with her parents and playing the title role in a community-theater production of Peter Pan. Crumm was working as a counselor at a camp for children with HIV, “making canoes and doing all kinds of crazy kid stuff.” Neither seems the least weirded out to be sitting on 47th Street, or to be worried about any potential long-term effects of GTO on their careers. “Even if people pan the show, it’s still Grease on Broadway and it’s fun,” Crumm says. “But I’m sure if we get terrible reviews it’ll be because of the reality show.”
Marshall is right about the Osnes-Crumm bond. I’m not sure if the act of wordlessly handing one’s uneaten chocolate pancakes over to a friend, who tears them apart delightedly and offers his toast in trade, necessarily translates to onstage chemistry, but it’s entertaining to watch from my side of the booth. If they can just nail that “You’re the One That I Want” finale, the stigma of reality TV might vanish as quickly as their fame arrived.
Yesterday, they’d moved into their dressing rooms. The previous occupants, Osnes says, had been Kevin Spacey and Eve Best in Moon for the Misbegotten. Crumm puts down his pancake and swivels to look at her with the same lightbulb-on expression he wore when she’d first stepped out at rehearsal as the sexed-up Sandy. “If you think about it,” he says, “that’s kind of nuts.”