SOUND OFF: GLEE's Old Dogs, New Tricks, Broadway Bitches & CATS
Last night's GLEE was highlighted by a particular PETER PAN focus, appreciably affording a memorable "Memory" via CATS, abetted by guest star June Squibb, as well as a plethora of pets, as well. Paws up!
The title says it all! Chris Colfer's self-penned ep was a showcase for not only some furry friends and felines (the latter courtesy of CATS), but also an actual dog adoption website known as the fictitious "Broadway Bitches". Additionally, with a hearty dose of 80s hits, the soundtrack was packed with energy, if altogether unexpected song choices (assumedly influenced by Colfer's script, if not outright hand picked by the award-winning multi-hyphenate). Nevertheless, the placement of each and every one was elegant, although the macabre death of a nursing home resident whilst performing a PETER PAN scene may have been slightly shocking. Right with that was the surprising poignancy of the elegantly-staged "Memory" sequence, heartfelt and moving, shortly thereafter, in a potent parallel. A unique entry in the GLEE canon, Colfer's way with a quirky storyline was amply apparent to witness on the ep, assuredly directed by co-creator Bradley Buecker. Although it was the penultimate show of the season and tackled a few pertinent dramatic topics, it seemed a bit low-stakes given the tumultuous events of the season now that we near the final moments, all told. But, highs and lows aplenty, "Old Dog, New Tricks" entertainingly juggled a number of lingering plotlines while introducing some classic 80s hits into the GLEE songstack so far.
Case in point: "Memory"! Perhaps no Broadway standard of the 80s is more iconic than the major theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical based on the poems of T.S. Eliot. While some may cavalierly say such sentiment nakedly bared is saccharine, the unmistakably effective nature of the gargantuan anthem remains powerful more than 30 years after its introduction. Without a doubt, the flashback sequence to the youths of the featured nursing home residents as seen in the sequence - portrayed by the aforementioned June Squibb along with fellow guest stars Billy Dee Williams and Tim Conway - was a touching compliment to the finest musical moment of the ep. Plus, Squibb's plucky nature juxtaposed with Colfer's kind sensibility was an enjoyable rapport to experience throughout.
Colfer certainly provided himself with a surefire acting challenge with a wide range of differently pitched moments ranging from light comedy to truthful, all too realistically emotional reality to pure musical jubilation. After all, GLEE is the only series on TV where the cast can not only lay bare their emotions, whatever they may be, but put them into song. Say what you want, but Kurt Hummel has never been seen in a better light than the, well, starlight of "Lucky Star" as originally made famous by the, well, divine Madonna. And, where else but GLEE could one possibly envision witnessing June Squibb duetting with Chris Colfer in a PETER PAN-set Madonna musical number?! Nowhere. Honestly, can you possibly get more "meet cute" than, "Hey, Pillsbury! Why the long face?" followed up by, "You look like the saddest doughboy in the world." Delightful.
On the other side of the story, Rachel (Lea Michele) was given a doggy dragging in an amusingly staged paparazzi-attended sequence to try to mitigate some bad press. Ensuant, the dogs sighting a hot dog, in a touch of hilarious irony, featured the pooches subsequently running in for the kill. It was, in a word, messy! On a note of musical theatre drama, the single missed performance causing a firestorm of FUNNY GIRL controversy (on the series of fictionally-titled websites referenced) may have been a slight stretch if compared to actual reality, the paranoia felt by players in the performing arts is an all too apparent reality now, as always, for sure. A little unusual, maybe - but mostly right, especially given these circumstances (feigning a sickness when really jetting to LA for a TV audition). You've always got to be on, it seems, when you're on Broadway - and present, too. On a musical corollary, Rachel also joined with newly co-habitating couple Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) in a spirited singing of Modern English's "I Melt With You", in keeping with the 80s theme. Similarly, Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" was a classic canine-infused tune offered up with bite by Sam along with Artie (Kevin McHale). Woof!
Most of all, though: what a brilliantly selected song choice to feature the dogs of the Broadway Bitches adoption agency with the catchy "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money. Witty. On top of that, the group numbers are always worth a smile or two, as was scene in the closing show of last night's show - which thankfully also included Blaine (Darren Criss), Artie and Santana (Naya Rivera).
Speaking of Santana, Rivera's presence on the series has recently been confirmed by FOX to be continuing in some capacity despite pervasive rumors to the contrary, although the series itself and the focus on what characters and where for the final season when it starts in September or thereabouts is unfortunately currently unknown. Certainly, NYC has been a trip and the series has been enhanced by the renewed energy that the Big Apple has given it over the course of the last dozen or so entries, with FUNNY GIRL having had many memorable musical moments as well as the superb Sondheim showcase earlier on in the season unforgettable treasures. Despite the insurmountable blow dealt by the loss of a leading star such as was the case with Cory Monteith's extremely sad passing last year, the resiliency of the show as it is seen is easy to appreciate if you let it do so. The musical numbers alone offer fresh and vibrant opportunities for the headliners and guest stars in a way unable to be seen anywhere else but on the Great White Way or in a live performance venue. That's the lifeblood of GLEE and the satisfaction it can provide, in the end. That and some unexpectedly genius uses of pop music and pop culture mainstays, that is - now and always. Just like CATS.
Next week? Season finale! Stay tuned.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro