Tuesday, December 9, 2008

American Idolatry

I was struck by a peculiar thought as I watched American Idol winner Taylor Hicks descend in a silver lame platform from heaven as "Teen Angel" in the road show of Grease last Friday night. Hicks probably got as many votes as Barack Obama. Whether he did or not - probably not- it may cross somebody's mind someday that this would be a great way to elect a President - sing your best soulful, ear-caressing ballad or that kick ass rock and rock anthem, and you're on your way to that big soundstage recently installed in the Oval Office. No more Fireside Chats or Saturday morning radio addresses - switch it to Classic Rock, Rap and HipHop, Reggae, Reggaton, Techno, Alternative, etc., and occasional retro forays into Disco Night or Soul Power Hour.

Hicks has a big, soothing voice that was perfect in the best doo wop fashion as Teen Angel consoles poor Frenchy that she can still "...go back to high school.." even if she is a "Beauty School Dropout." It was a perfect Burger Palace serenade, in keeping with the show's overall flawless execution, making the Fifties musical journey from the token car song - "Greased Lightnin" -to the token teen aged angst ballad - " It's Raining on Prom Night" - to the bulletproof, onetime AM radio hits - "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "Grease". The show opens with a Four Seasons intro, four of the actors emerging from separate doorways, although no one had that necessary Frankie Valli falsetto. Danny Zuko (Eric Schneider) came across in that big John Travolta style, while Sandy Dumbrowski (Emily Padgett) was eerily reminiscent of Olivia Newton John. The other key roles - Koneicki, Rizzo, Frenchy and the rest - featured individual vocalists who captured the elements of Fifties music and dance to a proverbial "t". By the time they were collectively rocking out to "You're The One That I Want/We Go Together", most of the audience was following suit.

The only odd thing was that Taylor Hicks gets so much billing in the pre-show hype that you think he dominates the whole show as opposed to a cameo in the second act. I guess Teen Angel would always be considered the equivalent of an American Idol anyway, the divine reincarnation of that carefree Fifties spirit - but would he get us out of the economic mess?

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