SOUND OFF: GLEE Goes Downtown, All The Way To NYC
A new dawn. A new day. Best day? Best episode in... forever! Glee made the official move to the Big Apple with this week's ep and with it came a revitalized, fresh new tone, style and locale while still providing some sensational musical sequences as we have come to expect - except now, in a whole new milieu. FUNNY GIRL, too!
The Luckiest People In The World
It happened. Glee has officially shifted its focus to NYC. Although it has seemed inevitable ever since the obviously standout scenes of Manhattan and NYC itself started cropping up following the big move of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) during last season, not to mention the big Nationals competition showcased in S2, Glee NYC - or, perhaps it preferable to call it Glee 5.0 - exhibited an appreciable revitalization - imbued with the snark, songs and smart repartee reminiscent of the best eps. Indeed, this was perhaps the finest show of the year so far, if not the entire season, now 14 episodes in. It was penned by co-creator and show mastermind Ryan Murphy, after all - and his quirky and identifiably skewed style was all over the episode. The sheer audaciousness of shifting the show to a new city with only a handful of the original cast is a coup alone, without even making mention of the entertaining and absorbing way in which it was actually pulled off - and pulled off it was.
Rachel and Kurt were joined by fellow McKinley High graduates Blaine (Darren Criss) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) with a lovely reappearance of Mercedes (Amber Riley) later on. Unfortunately, the downer storyline afforded wheelchair-bound Artie (Kevin McHale) was an occasionally sour note in an otherwise superb entry in the wildly varying series as it stands - always outstandingly enjoyable, but having had some unmistakably awkward turns and noticeable hiccups in the drama over the years. Nonetheless, the backpack-theft plot will hopefully have some repercussions at a later date and acts to remind audiences that there is always danger lurking around the corner in a metropolis, natch, though the pat resolution was a bit clumsy. To that point, next week looks rife with drama, too - complete with a gay bashing and a funereal candlelit vigil set to the soulfully mournful sounds of Stephen Sondheim's classic and exceedingly touching "No One Is Alone" from INTO THE WOODS. This week Artie at least got a vocal moment to shine with his verse of Petula Clark's iconic 1960s smash "Downtown", all things considered. Oh, yeah! Speaking of that outstanding opener...
The show kicked off with a very well-shot and tightly constructed musical number following Rachel's brief FUNNY GIRL intro - lest we forget, she is a Broadway star now. And how! Without a doubt, Rachel the diva was a comedic highlight - town car in tow. As was "Downtown" - seamlessly weaving together the seemingly disparately motivated assortment of characters that have made the long journey from Lima, Ohio, to New York, New York. As if one Petula Clark gem wasn't enough, Rachel and Artie were spotlighted in another '60s showcase with "Don't Sleep In The Subway". The THAT GIRL-type feel of some of these scenes was only further reinforced by such musical choices, quite expertly chosen by Murphy and company. Groovy!
In addition to the throwback tunes, new music was given its due byway of the American Authors hit "Best Day Of My Life" which showed off the New New York of the title in a glimmering glow - encapsulating the bustle, bravado and dazzling mise en scene of contemporary Times Square exceptionally well. Sam and Blaine are certainly an amusing pair, all told, with Blaine given some unappetizingly cloying moments to play all the while - and played well, thankfully. Glitter rock vampire - both. Criss certainly gives his all at all times, while Colfer's increasingly developing characterization of Kurt is gaining likability, if slightly straining believability at times given his choices. I mean, what would the end of Klaine spell for the gleeks, anyway?
Surely, Klaine are a fan favorite of all the couples depicted on the series thus far - if not the ultimate duo, at least post-Finchel. Speaking of which, Frank Sinatra's incomparable "You Make Me Feel So Young" was given a particularly gleeful airing as only Murphy and company could command - daring in the fact it may perhaps be the first post-coital gay musical number shown on a network TV series and remarkable in its entertainment value. A surefire game-changer and all too appropriately progressive at the very same time. A brand new day, indeed - and a reliably politically active GLEE. Thank goodness times two. It was a positive reflection on gay marriage, not to mention, along with that - legally recognized, illegal due to the law or otherwise.
As for guest star power, Elliott aka Starchild (Adam Lambert) made his final strut upon the stage with a spine-tingling singing of recent hit "Rock Star" by A Great Big World. Sadly, it was an all too visceral and memorable reminder that Lambert has been a notable asset to the series this year and his absence will be felt for the remaining eps, though the re-energized show as it now stands seems to be offering copious possibilities coming up anyway, especially insofar as what we shall see on the musical front. Plus, what other gleeks and new faces will we meet as the final quarter of the season plays out with the show having had rebooting as inextricably and intriguingly as it has?! There is a lot to look forward to - and this was certainly a great way to kick off the new journey. And, no matter what, more FUNNY GIRL fabulousness is undoubtedly on the menu.
FUNNY GIRL starring Lea Michele may be only a proposition with some preliminary plans in place at this point in time in the real world, but according to the new Glee 5.0 we were shown a Broadway star being born that was bred before our very eyes and ears in preceding seasons - Lea Michele aka Rachel Berry aka Fanny Brice. Who else?! Delectably befitting for a star of Michele's crossover power and appeal, the prospect of the triple-threat in an actual revival of the iconic Jule Styne/Bob Merrill musical is incredible, nevertheless 30-odd episodes of Glee remain. Until then, a slice of the showstoppers via musical moments like last night's bare stage-set, solo spotlit "People" shall go a long way in instilling a sense of confidence that Michele will ultimately deliver on her promise to return to her roots on the Great White Way in a major and unforgettable way. A highlight of an extraordinarily strong ep in an otherwise somewhat uneven fifth season so far, without any question. The fulfillment of the fantasy is increasingly encroaching and will very soon find its ultimate realization one way or another on the show, long before Michele ever comes back home to Broadway - we can hope! A private limo - pardon me, town car - will more than do for now, anyway... along with the songs, of course.
Next week? Glee gets political and even more dramatic with a particularly headline-grabbing episode focused on the recent minority-based attacks in NYC - gay bashing, in particular.