SOUND OFF: GLEE Catches SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
"How about the soundtrack that defined a generation… wait for it… SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER?!" sayeth Sue Sylvester on last night's glitzy disco-themed GLEE. Sporting seriously choice song selections, with all concerned outfitted in fiercely far-out duds, "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" was a slice of soundtrack heaven - and sporadically hotter than, well, a disco inferno. Besides the all-out Bee Gees bonanza, we were also treated to the welcome return of GLEE guest star extraordinaire and Broadway regular Jonathan Groff as fan favorite Jessie St. James, as well as a chance for some secondary players of New Directions to break out in song, dance and - given the theme - strut. So, before we arrive at the tribute-heavy second half of Season Three excelling into high gear next week with the Whitney Houston homage, looking back, it is clear to see that last night's GLEE gone disco struck the right poses, affected the right look and made all the right moves in making a memory for a new generation with the timeless music of another - as GLEE has proven it does best and most effectively of any nostalgia generator around, time and time again. Yes, tribute episodes are where GLEE achieves maximum momentum as not only a TV series, but as an entertainment entity itself - as the eight elaborate production numbers in "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" surely attest.
How Deep Is Your Glee?
My, my, what funky shoes! Last night's GLEE was a triple-decker discotheque of decadent 70s excess and cheerful cheesiness. Headbands to bell-bottoms to pant-suits and beyond, "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" was decked out in wow-worthy "Me Generation" nostalgia and some surprisingly moving musical moments courtesy of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn, as well - their solo turns on The Bee Gees soft-rock staples "How Deep Is Your Love" and "More Than A Woman" were more than merely note-worthy. Hitting the right notes on the tricky falsetto-focused anthems of the brothers Gibb also was show superstar Darren Criss, who continues to dominate the Season Three proceedings, solidifying himself as the show's strongest standout and perhaps the unofficial focal centerpiece of the series and its trajectory as it now stands - and sings. He continues to impress. Doing much more than merely standing still and belting out a tune, the cast was provided with ample opportunities to show off their considerable dance skills - besides the always-reliable choreographic champs Harry Shum, Jr. and Heather Morris, Criss exhibited his mid-air splits and recently refined musical theatre acumen, especially evident to those in the know now that he is coming hot off of his harried and hurried hiatus star replacement stint in Broadway's HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING - a huge success that set the street abuzz and the box office afire.
Grandly and glamorously kicking off the show in more ways than one with a committed and athletic - and all-too toe-tapping - take on the instant earworm "You Should Be Dancing", GLEE's SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack celebration did not let up as it barreled forth from the stupendous start of Criss and his effortlessly magnetic rendition (the first of five Bee Gees hits) through to joining Will (Matthew Morrison) and Artie (Kevin McHale) on the even more addictive and head-bop-worthy "Night Fever". Then the solos! In addition to the aforementioned newly notable Season Three solo spotlights coming courtesy of Rachel and Finn's Bee Gees ballads, Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana (Naya Rivera) also got to be disco queens in their own right, tackling "Disco Fever" (The Trammps) and "If I Can't Have You" (Yvonne Elliman), respectively. Defying description was GLEE PROJECT finalist Unique in a gender-bending and roof-raising concert extravaganza of a "Boogie Shoes", originally made a worldwide smash by KC & The Sunshine Band, with back-up by Vocal Adrenaline (much to the dismay of their coach, Jessie St. James). Ending the episode in the most ideal of manners given the themes of the enjoyable and exuberant evening was "Stayin' Alive" done due justice as led by Finn, Mercedes, Santana and the rest of New Directions, sending the gleeks in the audience out on a patchouli-scented and psychedelic high more than befitting of the era of excess run rampant.
While the plot development of the series - and, for that matter, the season - was put on the back-burner this week (besides Finn's college commitment, at least), "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" gave us more than a few moments to savor and provided us with even more to revisit due in no small part to the wonderfully-rendered song sequences and expertly stylized musical numbers - heads to threads to shoes to songs to light-up plexiglass sets, it was all one could have asked for from a an episode of GLEE giving disco its indescribable and idiosyncratic brand of do-over and reinvention. While the episode may not have set the world on fire insofar as exceeding all expectations to an extreme extent on all fronts, it was more than mildly amusing and gave us a few great character moments - Finn & Rachel and Mercedes & Sam (Chord Overstreet) having the best of the bunch, with Sue (Jane Lynch), too, getting some guffaw-inducing stinging zingers to remember - along the way. All in all, it was a real trip.
So, now, how to top the best moves and catchiest choruses of the kings and queens of disco? Well, with the one and only Whitney Houston, that's how - and, coming after the sample of what GLEE can do with a Whitney gem like Amber Riley's outstanding "I Will Always Love You", we could be in for a real treat. Next week could very well be a buzz-worthy pop culture occurrence to rival the Madonna, Britney Spears and Fleetwood Mac homages. So, until next week... strut!
From This Author Pat Cerasaro