SOUND OFF: GLEE Goes To The Movies & Le MOULIN ROUGE
Last night, one of the most significant theatre-related entities in the universe paid tribute to the game-changing film that re-introduced the movie musical to modern audiences back in 1999: Baz Luhrmann's musical masterpiece, MOULIN ROUGE. And, it more than merely delivered on the inherent promise presented by that seminal film.
"Come what may / I will love you / Until my dying day," And so goes the plight of many a gleek. Sometimes we love it, sometimes it meets our expectations and sometimes it's wonky, but the longstanding love affair between a gleek and Glee is inalienable. To turn a pun on another MOULIN ROUGE cover song since it was given ample due on last night's episode: we will always love GLEE. And, last night's "Boys (And Girls) On Film", written by Michael Hitchcock and directed by Ian Brennan, was a huge Todd AO widescreen, vivid 70mm Technicolor, DTS-HD surround sound reminder of why - and who; and what; and when; and why; and how. And how! And how much, too! Yes, Glee tipped its spiffiest top hat and tapped its swankiest cane in the grandest manner possible in ode to MOULIN ROUGE, as well as to some other unforgettable musical moments in movies, both old and older: ROYAL WEDDING, SAY ANYTHING, GHOST, TOP GUN, FOOTLOOSE and far beyond. Matthew Morrison made his return at long, long last with am impossibly suave and debonair turn as a Fred Astaire-esque Will Schuester ala ROYAL WEDDING - complete with Jayma Mays doing her best spin around the dance floor (and room, as it were). In one of the most striking sequences yet presented on the series, "You're All The World To Me" from 1951's ROYAL WEDDING was the ideal black-and-white realization of the legendary, gravity-defying showstopper. While the original may have actually been filmed and originally presented in color, this B&W, mono take on the track was incredibly inspired - and exceedingly entertaining. Mr. Schue is back at McKinley High in a big way - watch out Sue Sylvester! Yet, last night's Glee started off shot out of a canon and continued to rocket into the stratosphere from that point forward - not unlike the pilots central to the drama of TOP GUN, as a matter of fact!
Most of all, though, the central love ballad of Baz Luhrmann's mega-musical romance for the ages, MOULIN ROUGE's "Come What May", was the standout of many memorable musical highlights in a pleasantly overstuffed and richly adorned episode of FOX's number one scripted series - now in its fourth season and still going strong. Naysayers be damned - Glee is in its fine, fine form and consistently, compellingly a joy to experience, week in and week out. It's a true blue game-changer - just like MOULIN ROUGE. It has set a new standard, just like that film did - not only for TV, but for film and theatre, too. This was one example of many - but what a stupendously, sensitively rendered sequence it was.
Indeed, last night saw the 500th musical number to appear on the Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk/Ian Brennan-created series - a milestone if ever there were any to shout and celebrate about. So, going with the theme of last night's show, movies, it was the appropriately rebellious and raucous paean to the possibilities of positivity, so true to the spirit of the series itself (look no further than its title) spelled out in song (and, in this case, dance) that fit the bill best: "Shout" from the comedy classic ANIMAL HOUSE. Whether a little bit louder or a little bit softer now (or ever), Glee has more laughs in an hour than most shows on TV these days, if not all, and packs more pertinent social messages into its themes and storylines than even most (or all) family-friendly fare out there, so the icing on the cake is always the musical numbers, of which there are always many - but, really, they truly are what the show is all about, all things considered; and always will be, for that matter. At its best, Glee is thrilling, chill-inducing and joyous - now and always. And, at its worst, its mildly entertaining and a little too campy. Then, now, always - it's a pretty predicatable mix. Where will we stand come musical number #1000? Only time will tell. Until then, let's dissect these.
As previously mentioned, ROYAL WEDDING's romantic duet "You're All The World To Me", originally introduced by Fred Astaire, was lovingly introduced to a whole new generation thanks to a lovely and lovable reading by should-be newlyweds (pity it was only a dream) Will (Morrison) and Emma (Mays), while "Shout" from ANIMAL HOUSE blew the roof off of McKinley High byway of Blaine (Darren Criss) and Brittany (Heather Morris) heading up the New Directions in the spirited and momentous musical moment sure to be remembered in the storied history of the series to date. The piece de resistance of "Guys (And Girl) On Film", though, was undoubtedly the first of two MOULIN ROUGE tributes: Blaine and Kurt (Chris Colfer) making "Come What May", in the words of Kurt (as recounted by Santana), "more intimate than sex." And it was. I mean, honestly, does anybody have a cigarette? So scintillating - for anyone of any sexual persuasion. Superb.
As for the shocking drug-drenched twist of the night: Rachel (Lea Michele) may have a sexy and studly new boy toy in Brody (Dean Geyer), but Santana (Naya Rivera) discovered his polished look and too-smooth style is a front for drug-dealing - or at least so she presumes. We will have to wait and see to discover for sure how the drama in the New York City-set portion of Glee 4.0 will play out. One thing that is not played out in the least, though, is the addition of Santana into the NYC mix with Kurt, Rachel, Brody and strong S4 add-on Adam (Oliver Kieran-Jones) - it is a combustible combination. The laugh-out-loud moments were rapid-fire and copious and Santana's placement into that storyline is a skillful stroke. Brava.
As for the kids back at McKinley High in Lima, OH, two mash-ups, one led by the ladies and one by the gentlemen, tore up the rug and resplendently rang through the rafters and halls with much force and energy. First up, Unique (Alex Newell), Marley (Melissa Benoist), Kitty (Becca Tobin), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Brittany and Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) sashayed and shimmied ala Marilyn Monroe (and, later, Nicole Kidman) in hot pink evening gowns, showing off bejeweled décolletage while wildly waving frilly fans wantonly about in a fabulous flurry, inciting an inspired "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend/Material Girl" moment ala MOULIN ROUGE. Wowzer! Following that, the boys did their best delivering an ultra-macho while boyishly charming ode to two early Tom Cruise hits, TOP GUN and RISKY BUSINESS. Finn (Cory Monteith) may have fallen into a ton of trouble due to his kiss with Miss Pillsbury at the botched wedding last time we saw GLEE, but the rest of the boys of New Directions made their musical movie homage mash-up count with pilot suits zipped, sunglasses down and cocky attitude to the max in "Danger Zone", led by Blaine, Artie (Kevin McHale) and Joe (Samuel Larsen), quite masterfully mixed up with white shirt, white socks and white BVDs-clad Sam (Chord Overstreet), Jake (Jacob Artist) and Ryder (Blake Jenner) with a reenactment of RISKY BUSINESS's "Old Time Rock And Roll" jam session, shades drawn.
After that, Mr. Schue serenaded a distraught Emma with Peter Gabriel's iconic 80s SMASH "In Your Eyes", complete with John Cusack's raised-boom-box pose from SAY ANYTHING, with the aid of New Directions. The club closed out the music-packed episode (ten songs covered over the course of eight separate musical sequences for those who were counting) with the title song from 80s movie musical staple FOOTLOOSE in a dazzling finale. Before that, though, came another of GLEE's most sensitively-wrought and insinuatingly moving musical numbers on the show this season: a GHOST tribute set to the strains of the one and only "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. Where else but on Glee do you see a plot-centric network series juggle all this pop culture fabulousness while still developing and depicting a pretty expansive and entertaining story at the exact same time - set in two distinct locales, no less? Nowhere. Glee is a Broadway baby's best friend and continues to be a total treat, eighty-plus episodes into its unprecedented run.
To quote MOULIN ROUGE once more: "Everything is going so well!" Let's hope it always does.