Before I go into my thoughts, I do want to say that these opinions are based on what we've seen so far and we really haven't been given the opportunity to see what they truly can do. I'm not going to cut the slack here that I do for my AI faves (Constantine, I love you dearly, but you were not the best singer by far that year), because I admit freely that I hold Broadway singers to a higher standard than I do pop singers and my opinion on talent will far, far outweigh my thoughts on their personality. Right now there really isn't one "Danny" or "Sandy" that I can see. I hope the coming weeks will do so.
Now thoughts on tonight's episode: I have to admit that I truly was tense during the sing-off and I thought that was pretty damn well-done. As they kept singing that refrain (tears on my pillow ...) it was actually pretty suspenseful to me. I thought it was well, well-done.
I like the idea of having them sing pop songs that mirror the emotions of the musical and I think it's a cagey way to get out of having them sing only "Grease" songs during the live shows. I hope they do throw in some Broadway tunes as well because Broadway is generally a lot harder to sing than pop. I was okay with most of the pop song choices but for two. "Complicated?" Really?! No. And "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Just no. And no.
My top four faves made it into the round of 24, but two of them (sigh, my absolute two faves, double sigh) were cut. Ah well.
The ones I wanted (based on what we had seen, and personality which REALLY does matter for Broadway) to make it to the 12 finalists were ... (* next to the ones who made it.)
Ashley Anderson -- The blonde girl who just couldn't get over her nerves. I really felt it was a shame because she totally looked the part, had a lovely, lovely voice and a wonderful presence. She just could not get over her nerves and they don't have the time to (as Kathleen Marshall said) spoon-feed them.
* Max Crumb -- He was the guy who didn't look like Danny to Ian Gray (more on him later), but I'm glad that they recognized that he really has the talent and put it to America to judge. Do I think he's Danny in the John Travolta mode? No. But if he can really build up his confidence he can overcome not quite having the look ... he certainly has the talent.
* Kathleen Monteleone -- I don't remember her standing out before this (perhaps they never even featured her), but she stood out for me tonight. From the second they were onstage she was selling it. And I thought she had a great voice, probably my favorite of the final twelve now.
Matt Nolan -- Sigh, newbie jock who had no experience. And it showed. Hopefully, he'll get some training and work on it because I do believe the raw talent is there. As bummed as I am that he didn't make it, I do understand why they cut him.
George Pelligrino -- We met him part of the friends trio, but until I heard him sing in the final 24 numbers, I didn't have an opinion. Once we heard him sing, I really liked him. Ah well.
Chad Dorek -- Another one I didn't have an opinion on before the group 24. I loved his attitude. Didn't make it. Ah well again.
* Kevin Greene -- Another one I didn't know before the group 24 (sensing a pattern? Arrgg!! It gives such an unfair advantage to the finalist who got air-time prior to the top 12. It's really not fair.) Anyhoo, I liked his voice, I had him on my list, so I'm glad he made it through.
* Ashley Spencer -- At least one of my Ashley's got through. She reminded me a lot of the other Ashley, but she clearly didn't have the nerves problem. I liked A. Anderson better, but this one has a LOT of potential. I like her.
Lexi Rhoades -- I remember seeing her before and not being impressed. I was impressed here. I'm gonna pull out the racism card. I could be wrong, but I really think she was dropped because she's not white and Sandy is supposed to be white. If that was the reason, I can see why they felt that way, but it still bugged because I thought she was much, much better (vocally and emotionally) than a few who got through.
* Allie Shultz -- I think she needs to tone it down a bit and was TOO much, but I like her voice and it's certainly something that can be handled during the coming weeks.
Some may notice that I don't have the only touted "Danny" with experience on my list: Austin Miller. He can dance beautifully, has a great voice, but (a) I'm sorry, he looks effeminate to me and one thing Danny Zuko is NOT is effeminate and (b) I thought he was HORRIBLE in the acting section. Finally, I'm not horribly impressed with his attitude. He seems like he's TRYING to come across as genuinely nice guy (and if he is, I'm sorry), but I don't completely buy it. I honestly would be disappointed if he were to win this thing.
There were a couple of girls who made it that made me scratch my head, I thought even with her nerves, Ashley Anderson was much better and nerves CAN be conquered. Ah well, not my choice, but you can damn well bet I'll be voting for my faves next week!
All in all, despite a rough start, I am really enjoying this. My fear now is that the coming weeks will be nothing but an AI-rip-off. We'll see.
About the judges ... I must say while the Grease creator really isn't bringing much, Ian Gray and Kathleen Marshall are kicking all kinds of judging booty, especially Gray. I was absolutely ADORING him in the one on ones. That, Mr. Simon Cowell, is how you give constructive criticism. I love, love, love him. As for Marshall, I love seeing her out there on the floor, doing it, teaching them and her comments to the camera make so much sense. I really love how seriously they are taking this and the respect with which they are showing the participants. That is one of the major things missing from AI. When the only sympathetic, respectful judge comes across as loaded and cuckoo out of her mind, that's not a very good state of things.