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‘Grease’ chugs along like a well-oiled ’56 Chevy

Citizen Staff Writer



Somehow or other, the endlessly running musical “Grease” has become the most popular nostalgia boat to the 1950s. For most everyone who didn’t grow up during that time, the TV reruns of “Happy Days” and the love story of Sandy and Danny in “Grease” define the period.

While mom was in the kitchen and dad was making money in a booming postwar economy, all the teens were midwiving rock ‘n’ roll. Virginity still had market value, so there was a lot of sexual frustration as well – supplying the energy to do so much dancing.

That spark ignited pop culture’s most magical moment, which the writing team of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey captured in the book, music and lyrics of “Grease.” So what if the show was a 1970s response to society’s psychedelic 1960s meltdown, meant to remind us of the good old days? These days nobody cares about any of yesterday’s realities.

Instead, this photo album of memories that is “Grease” has become everybody’s favorite version. A time when girls could sing “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and no snippy feminist in fatigue pants and clunky boots would kick her in the shins.

Falling in love felt like forever and gas was 30 cents a gallon. Who wouldn’t want to romanticize a time like that? So when NBC dreamed up a huge campaign back in 2007 to have a national talent search for the leading roles in “Grease,” kids of all ages showed up to audition as Sandy and Danny.

When the fluffed-up show opened on Broadway in August of that year, the ticket line was long and everybody was smiling.

Meanwhile, rock ‘n’ soul singer Taylor Hicks had made a name for himself on “American Idol.” In 2006 he was named the season’s top winner with 63.4 million votes. A successful CD followed with a number one hit single, “Do I Make You Proud.” Later the whole album went platinum as a bona fide million-seller.

Just to emphasize his happiness, Hicks signed a book deal with Random House and in July, 2007, released “Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Way.”

When you’re hot you’re hot, so toward the end of 2008 Hicks was invited to step into the cast of “Grease” during its last three months on Broadway. He appeared in the showcase role of Teen Angel, originated by Frankie Avalon, singing “Beauty School Dropout.”

Then Hicks, the energetic singer from Alabama, stayed around to sign on for the national tour, which started last December and opens for a week of Tucson shows on Tuesday.

“Every night I perform I learn more about the business of musical theater,” says Taylor, on the phone from the road. “This role is a good one for me.”

Hicks is taking a methodical approach to his career, which began at age 16. He wants to become “as versatile as possible.

“Reinvention is key in this business, I’m convinced,” Hicks insists.

“I’ve been offered other roles on Broadway but I didn’t want to really dive into it. When they sent me the information about ‘Grease’ I thought it would be a good idea.”

Hicks also received a few more sweeteners. His new album “The Distance” is being released March 10, in the midst of this tour. Although Hicks sings only “Beauty School Dropout” during the show, at the curtain call he gets to sing the album’s breakout single “What’s Right Is Right.”

“It’s already getting radio play,” Hicks says proudly. “Touring in this show is a great way to get the music out, as well as meet old friends and new fans.”

‘Grease’ chugs along like a well-oiled ’56 Chevy


What: Broadway in Tucson presents “Grease,” with Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday (Taylor Hicks does not perform Sunday at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

Price: $25-$68,

Info: 903-2929, www.broadwayin tucson.com

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