SOUND OFF: GLEE's Back-Up & Break-Up Plans
Navigating the treacherous territory of super-stardom - well, at least on Broadway, headlining FUNNY GIRL - GLEE's "The Back-Up Plan" gave us a generous dose of showbiz razzle dazzle and flash, while also showing some of the ugly side. Plus, Shirley MacLaine and Darren Criss rock Janis Joplin!
Piece Of My Heart
Is it worth sacrificing your ultimate dream for something even bigger and more financially beneficial? Such is the primary concern of Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) following the incredibly well-received opening night of the first Broadway revival of FUNNY GIRL, with Berry in the rapturously-received lead. Yet, could TV or film provide an even wider audience for Berry's copious commendable talents? That was the focal focus of last night's episode, penned by show stalwart Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by co-creator Ian Brennan. Although, secondary storylines centered around the introduction of mega-star Shirley MacLaine, the seemingly final scenes showcasing Naya Rivera - particularly given this week's rumors of her approaching departure from the series - and the twists and turns on the road to recording artist success for Mercedes (Amber Riley) - which, as it turns out, eventually ended up involving Santana, as well. It seems a door is always left open to former players - and we can hope the same will be true for Santana. The real question of the show itself: what are we willing to do for fame? Furthermore, how much farther can we go once we have fulfilled our dreams? Rachel tested the waters with the results we saw - unexpected and uncomfortable as they were, subsequently reminding us that the true heart of the series has always been a deep-set desire to express one's love and passion for music through give-it-all performances. Well, we needed look no further than Michele's "The Rose" for that - and much, more - but the comedic subplot with the coterie of studio executives undercut the exquisite delivery; effectively and intentionally so. The highs and lows of Hollywood - emphasis on low; as in how low can one go.
Kicking off the songs for the night, Michele as Rachel as Fanny was first presented in a dressing room-set sequence imaginatively filmed with multiple camera effects, including multiple Rachels, slow motion shots and fast motion photography. And, as we see on Glee and only GLEE, who could ever have imagined an Avicii and Aloe Blacc chart-topper like the fantastically addictive "Wake Me Up" sung on a Broadway stage with an actress in full costume as a Barbra Streisand-esque Fanny in FUNNY GIRL. Whoa! Hello... GLEE?! And, Michele excelled in the dramatic department, as well on top of all that. Yes, it was certainly a standing ovation-worthy spotlight ep for Michele if there ever were any, and without a doubt there have been a few - as much if not more so than even the FUNNY GIRL opening night show a few weeks back. Challenge accepted - and conquered.
Speaking of swooning, Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) duetted on a sensational cover of the current One Direction smash "The Story Of My Life" and introduced the appearance of spunky, glamorous and sassy new guest star Shirley MacLaine as Blaine's new mentor and benefactor June Holloway while doing so. No small feat! In typically enjoyable Glee fashion, the recent radio hit was followed up by a raucous gem from rock n roll history - Janis Joplin's iconic "Piece Of My Heart" (written by Erma Franklin). MacLaine's good old Broadway roots were in full bloom to see and hear - and, if rumors are true, we are soon to see her pay tribute to her legendary SWEET CHARITY big screen collaborator Bob Fosse byway of the PIPPIN charmer "No Time At All", too. But, before that is seen, musing upon the mere juxtaposition of classic Broadway with classic rock made musical - and, magical, in more ways than one - by Shirley MacLaine is delectable to ponder, if this first taste was any indication of what is to come coming up. After all, she's a hoofer in the old tradition - and, apparently, she can still really rock. Who knew?! Whatever is next is highly anticipation-worthy for sure based on MacLaine's memorable debut - and her considerable rapport with Criss and Colfer only adds to it all; convivial and caustic, respectively. "It's the only way I can really serve you, you see?" Holloway tells Blaine when she informs him of their impending friendship prior to their musical moment, and, in the same way, MacLaine has served Glee well so far.
As for Santana and Mercedes, the diva-tastic pair certainly did more that just justice to the Lauryn Hill classic "That Thing", while the split-screen employed throughout the ep was a certainly a knowing wink to the memorable music video, natch. But, what's next? How much more of Rivera - and, to that point, Riley - shall we see in the next season? Who knows what's next? We shall have to wait and see what arises, but, until then, it is a happy circumstance that fan favorites have been given an expanded role on the series as it now stands - even if that came as a result of sacrificing some once central characters. Serial television, much like life, goes on no matter what - and Glee is a prime example of a series that has survived a major blow, as was seen with the loss of Cory Monteith last year and how it has been handled. Easy? Never. Acceptable and honorable? Indeed. We will never forget Finn as far as Glee goes, but Broadway dreams coming true is a justified and jubilant fulfillment of dreams by Rachel Berry. And, it turned out, the Broadway debut of Santana, too. A fitting conclusion, if that's what it is - going on once and leaving them wanting more; just as Rivera herself will do if she does Exit at the end of this season. Like with the rest of the uncertain fate of the characters and what exactly we can expect, we'll have to wait and see. That's showbiz! And, that's Glee as it now stands.
"You know what? I'm going to leave before you can say 'No.' That's how I work." Or, so sayeth faux FOX exec Lee Paulblatt to Rachel immediately following the moment the character of Rachel Berry has seemed inevitably destined to experience ever since the first time we saw her, lo, six seasons ago. Yet, she continues to be the most compelling character on the series, and that would obviously not be possible if not for the undeniable talent and star power of Lea Michele. Episodes which don't include her character risk losing what the primary guiding force of much of the series undoubtedly is: the desire for international acclaim. Sure, it's all about the work - but, it's also about the applause. Nevertheless, the reconfigured style of the series for the last several episodes has split the storyline between the characters in a dynamic new way - thankfully, it works. While it may have seemed to be a daring conceit at the outset to basically restart the series in many ways, placing it in a whole new city, with only a handful of the cast shouldering the dramatic thrust of the majority of the storylines. Michele has certainly excelled, while Colfer has shown increased confidence and charm. Undoubtedly, Naya Rivera has risen to a whole new level of prominence on the series of late, and, with news breaking about her imminent departure from the series updating as we discuss last night's entertaining ep, it's a bracing reminder of the ephemeral nature of network TV and the prices we pay as viewers of a series with as expansive and impressive as that of GLEE. Plus, as we saw, what major A-list guest stars - now and always!
Next week? Chris Colfer's self-penned entry, featuring the CATS showstopper "Memory"! Stay tuned.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro