Taylor Hicks gets `Grease’-y

News from the Rialto: “American Idol” winner (Season 5) Taylor Hicks is going to fly onto Broadway as Teen Angel in the revival of Grease (you know, the one you didn’t want but came with a reality TV show anyway).

Hicks, who will be making his Broadway debut (alert the Tony Award nominating committee), is following in the footsteps of other “Idol” alums, including Fantasia, LaToya London and Clay Aiken. He starts his doo-wop-diddy gig on June 6 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and continues through Sept. 7.

Here’s what Hicks had to say in a press release: “I am incredibly excited to be a part of one of my favorite musicals. The Soul Patrol’s gonna invade Broadway!”

If you are part of the patrol that is soul, here’s what you need to know about tickets for Grease: $71.50-$121.50. Call 212-307-4100 or visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.greaseonbroadway.com.

`Shrek’ sings, `Strange’ passes, Clay spams a lot

With that nasty kerfuffle involving the stagehands and the dark Broadway theaters well behind us, it’s time to take a look at what’s going on in New York, where the play is really the thing.

Sure wish I could go see Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, the hottest play on Broadway right now. On a more local front, Letts’ Bug will have its West Coast debut at SF Playhouse in May, filling the slot that was going to be filled with Mark Jackson’s Faust, Part One.

The big news on Broadway recently is that Rent’s lease is up. The pioneering rock musical, which won a posthumous Pulitzer prize for its creator, Jonathan Larson, will close on June 1 and enter the record books as Broadway’s seventh-longest-running musical.

When one musical closes, another one — most likely based on a movie — fills its place.

And here comes Shrek the Musical.

The CGI ogre, who has now starred in three hit movies, will make his musical theater debut this summer in Seattle before moving on to Broadway in November. The creative team behind the DreamWorks musical is impressive (even if the subject matter isn’t): Oscar-winner Sam Mendes is an artistic consultant (and sort of got the project rolling); Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, Or Change); Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) penned the book and lyrics; and Jason Moore (Avenue Q) is directing.

Moore has said the plot will follow the first movie, when Shrek joins up with his donkey cohort, Donkey, and falls in love with Princess Fiona.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid opened to reviews that were mostly piles of stinking fish. My impression, from reading those fragrant notices is that the show is overproduced, overstuffed and ought to have been thrown back early on. Still, I’d like to see it, if only to watch capable actors skate around on wheeled footwear.

With Mermaid packing in the family crowd, adult interest will shift to Passing Strange, the rock musical by Stew, Heidi Rodewald and director Annie Dorsen that had its pre-New York run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The show is transferring to Broadway and begins performances Feb. 8 at the Belasco Theatre.

The cast is the same one we saw in Berkeley in November 2006: de’Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones and Stew, himself (with Rodewald on bass and vocals in the band).

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Shrek isn’t the only ogre on Broadway. Clay Aiken opened in Spamalot.

Clay it isn’t so!

Claymates rejoice while the rest of us ponder why Clay Aiken ever stuck his fingers in Kelly Ripa’s mouth (OK, he covered her mouth with his hand, but like she said at the time, she didn’t know where that hand had been — right on, sister).

Aiken, the “American Idol” second-place finisher behind Ruben Studdard, will make his Broadway debut in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

He’ll be playing Brave Sir Robin, a role originated by Davd Hyde Pierce. His stint begins in January and is scheduled to continue into May.

Director Mike Nichols (whoever thought we’d see the day when Mike Nichols, the man who directed The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, would be talking about Clay Aiken?) said in a statement: “Clay Aiken is amazing beyond that glorious voice. Turns out he is an excellent comic actor and a master of character. People will be surprised by his wide-ranging talent, since the first impression is of great country charm and a singer to remember. This guy is not only a star, he is a lot more. We are lucky to get him for Spamalot.”

Visit the official Spamalot Web site here.

And here’s a number from Spamalot, “Find Your Grail,” performed on the 59th annual Tony Awards. (You go, Sara Ramirez — happy you have steady work on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but a voice like yours needs to be on a stage).

Oh, Mandy

Am I the only one alarmed to learn that today (Nov. 30) is the birthday of both Mandy Patinkin (Tony Award-winning, over-emoting singer, TV star actor) and Clay Aiken (American Idol and recording star of dubious sexuality and even dubiouser appeal)?
Mandy is 54 and Clay is 28. Happy birthday to both.