John Arthur Greene and Danny Zuko, the male lead in the musical “Grease,” have something in common beyond the extraordinary ability to sing and dance.
They both have secrets.
Or at least Greene, who is playing the lead in N.C. Theatre’s production of “Grease” this week, did before telling his most intimate secret to millions of people during his appearance on the television show “American Idol.”
Greene was eight years old when he accidentally shot and killed his 13-year-old brother. They were playing cops and robbers. His brother died in Greene’s arms.
Few people knew the story before Greene, 27, took the opportunity of being in the nation’s spotlight to discuss the tragedy.
“I was tired of hiding,” said Greene, who grew up in Garner and attended Enloe High School. “It was always there. A secret.
“And this was an opportunity to get it out in the open.”
He said the response has been overwhelming. People throughout the country have written to him expressing support.
“It has been tremendous,” he said. “The love that has been shown to me is staggering.”
Diana Greene, John Arthur’s mother, said the decision to tell the story was her son’s to make.
She is a Johnston County native and a music minister. She now ministers in Washington after stints at Aversboro Road Baptist in Garner, Hayes Barton Baptist in Raleigh and other churches throughout the country.
She has told the heart-wrenching story from a mother’s perspective in conferences, but never attempted to tell his story.
“John Arthur has his own story,” she said. “His story always has been his to keep or share. He is the only one who can tell his story.”
Greene said his mother told him that he was the only person to share with the world what most people would say in therapy.
“He thought it was time,” Diana Greene said. “Part of the sharing is a healing. But John Arthur also is interested in talking about gun safety and childhood trauma. He has that chance now.”
His chance on “Idol” is over. He made it to the Hollywood round before being eliminated.
He is fine with that.
Greene, believes he isn’t who “Idol” judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban sought.
“I think I was a little too polished for them,” he said. “They want someone who is new. I have been in two Broadway shows, in two films and have a band that is doing well. I have a single and an album coming out. The band may be going out on tour. There are several other things working, too.
“I think I killed it on my song in Hollywood,” Greene said. “I believe that’s why they didn’t televise any of me singing. People would wonder why I was sent home.
“But it was good. This is the last season of ‘Idol’ and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me. It gave me the chance to tell my story.”
In familiar territory
Greene is back in familiar territory amid N.C. Theatre’s production of “Grease.” He figures that he has been in 15 or 20 NCT shows.
This time he plays Zuko, who has a pretty big secret.
“Danny has to wear this mask around his friends,” Greene said. “He has a reputation that he has to maintain. He has to keep secrets. To act a certain way. The only person that he can really be himself with is Sandy.
“Danny is a high school senior who is trying to decide what he really wants. Who he really wants to be. That’s the heart of the story to me. He is a high school senior who is struggling with his identity.”
There may never have been better timing for a revival of the musical romantic comedy.
The Fox TV network did a live stage production last week that drew 12.2 million viewers.
“‘Grease’ is definitely the word right now,” Greene said with a laugh after repeating a lyric.
The play is based on a 1971 play that was later made into a movie starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 1978. The show features the sounds of the 1950s.
The Fox version drew outstanding reviews. Greene believed the show bumped the bar higher for live theater on television. He was in “Peter Pan,” which he believes was better than “The Sound of Music” - the first live theater program on television in recent years.
“I like that live theater is being brought to television, but we still have a ways to go,” he said. “We really haven’t seen a lot of character development yet.”
The show is a homecoming for Greene and for Kinzie Howell, another actor who grew up in Garner. She is in the ensemble.
“It’s great to see Kinzie,” Greene said. “We have been in three or four shows together. All of them when we were at Ligon Middle School.”
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org