When Taylor Hicks descended from the heavens (from above a burger bar) in the national touring production of Grease at Hobby Center Tuesday night, the roar from the crowd was like the landing of the Beatles on American soil. Several ladies (sorry, didn't see any guys do this) jumped out of their seats and danced to his number.
And the American Idol winner from Season 5 did a perfectly fine job. His voice was strong, the silver glitter in his suit matched his hair and his sense of humor came out throughout the "Beauty School Dropout" number.
He even came back for an encore performance after the show was over, taking us, as an announcer put it: "from 1959 to 2009!" He showed up in the lobby after the show to sell CDs and sign autographs. So everybody got their money's worth.
But Taylor Hicks was not the only one getting the audience squirming in their seats Tuesday night.
About 10 minutes before the 8 o'clock curtain, a guy bounded on stage saying he was a DJ and wanted to get to know the audience. As he started asking questions -- where are you from, who has a birthday -- people were obviously trying to figure out if he was part of the show or a TUTS add-on.
Turns out it's Dominic Fortuna, who plays Vince Fontaine, the DJ in Grease. Fortuna, fresh off his Broadway debut in the role, works the crowd like a friendly carny man. He can sing and dance himself and somehow he made the last few interminable minutes (when you are usually wondering if that jerk sitting next to you is ever going to turn off her cell phone) enjoyable and an interactive theater-going experience.
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Throughout the theater, he had people doing the twist, the swim and the monkey and some theatergoers, feeling confined by trying to do this while sitting in their seats, stood up to execute the moves.
So here's our Hair Balls tip of the day. If you go see Grease at the Hobby over its two-week run here, be prepared to come early and stay late.
Grease brought to Houston by Theatre Under the Stars runs through September 20 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. Tickets are available at TUTS.com, by phone at 713-558-8887 or at the TUTS box office , 800 Bagby at Walker.