SOUND OFF: The GLEE Gang's Gangnam Style
Over the last two weeks, GLEE has bravely gone where no TV show before or since has ever dared go and taken on a song stack comprising everything from David Bowie and Simon & Garfunkel to FOOTLOOSE, PROMISES, PROMISES, the Scissor Sisters, Kelly Clarkson and fun., to say nothing of Psy's current worldwide smash hit "Gangnam Style", and, in so doing, is clearly showing no signs of slowing down - actually, its amped up more than ever. Mashing up the New Directions of the original glee club with the new crew comprised of GLEE PROJECT winners and a few familiar faces, to say nothing of the Season Four additional storyline following the New York City-set travails of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) with guest stars Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker, both last week's "Dynamic Duets", written and directed by co-creator Ian Brennan, and this week's "Thanksgiving", written by Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner, directed by Bradley Buecker, also introduced anomalous themes into the GLEE universe while juggling everything else - namely: super heroes and a holiday tribute to Thanksgiving. While this week's episode was perhaps more generally amiable and appealing and certainly more successful in its overall execution and worthy place in the upper half of the episode stack four seasons of the series in, last week packed a plosive "Pow!" of a punch insofar as its appreciable visuals and creative utilization of the tried and true tropes of comic book lore, new and old, too. Faster than a speeding bullet, GLEE is as poised for reaching the utmost heights of performance-based entertainment as it has ever been. It's still a "streetwise Hercules", to crib a depictive lyric.
Hero For The Holidays
No, the music never stops - it plays and plays and plays, now as always, on Fox's hit musical dramedy series GLEE. Showing far fewer signs of wear and tear than many would assume conceivable nearly one hundred episodes in to the series run - particularly given the frantic pace and oftentimes rushed, themetically all-out style of this show - GLEE continually reinvents and reintroduces its themes in some inventive and intriguing ways, as well as presenting the occasional hackneyed story point or three along the way. You can't win 'em all, after all. But, more than anything, really, what makes GLEE GLEE is its changeable, chameleon-like nature - it is always unpredictable and malleable and this season has proven that trait to be true in spades, with spangles and sparkles to boot. Sure, the plot machinations and the way they play out amongst the admittedly mildly incestuous crew are as twisted and labyrinth as ever - as is the tar-black humor; particularly the barbs emitting from the acid-tipped tongues of cast additions Kitty (Becca Tobin) and new Dalton Academy Warblers front man Hunter Clarington (Nolan Gerard Funk), both scoring big with their numbers in the super hero-themed show especially.
The style is as frenetic and schizoid as ever, but isn't that great? Case in aforementioned point(s): a rousing and appropriately epic rendition of power ballad god Jim Steinman's "Holding Out For A Hero" done over as a duet by Kitty and Marley (Becca Tobin) - the second song they have shared singing in as many weeks, by the way, with both their renditions of "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" from the GREASE tribute episode "Glease" premiering earlier this month in this very column, as a matter of fact - itself a Bonnie Tyler anthem originally presented in the 1980s outside-the-box musical, contemporary classic FOOTLOOSE; as well as the aforementioned Warblers a capella performance feature spot with former member Blaine (Darren Criss) temporarily rejoining the ranks for a smooth and spirited cover of Kelly Clarkson's catchy "Dark Side". This week saw the continued prominence of former BYE BYE BIRDIE on Broadway star Funk in his notable GLEE turn, leading the idiosyncratic Warbler boys on rapper Flo Rida's hip hop hit "Whistle" and Simon Cowell's Brit boy band sensation One Direction's current pop confection "Live While We're Young". Although last week may have been the actual purported time of turkeys lurking, this was the week we were given another musical theatre standard - a Michael Bennett masterpiece, no less - in the form of the storied Burt Bacharach/Hal David showstopper of the term, "Turkey Lurkey Time"; in this instance, joined with the edgy, earworm Scissor Sisters club-thumper "Let's Have A Kiki", as eagerly enacted in the episode with verve and stylish aplomb by Rachel, Kurt, a gaggle of drag queens and guest star Sarah Jessica Parker in her recurring role as Kurt's boss, Vogue editor Isabelle. Thanks to four ladies from the original New Directions (Quinn, Mercedes, Brittany and Santana) girl groups got their due this week, too, in addition to those dynamic divas in drag outfitting the over-the-top downtown accoutrement of "Turkey/Kiki", byway of a cute "Come See About Me" (The Supremes). Lock the doors!
As Finn passionately related in his inspiring speech to the new gleeks of McKinley High, "This is our house. Look into the faces of these graduates - they've been to the mountaintop; this is just the first step in your climb to meet them there." And so it goes for the new crew of New Directions. Over the course of the season so far, we have gotten to know each and every one of the fresh faces through their plot points and song selections and we will most certainly be discovering even more as the season wears on, but the synergy of elements coming together has never really felt as pronounced as it finally is beginning to feel now that the characters and actors have established themselves as, simultaneously, new personalities, while still paying homage to types of GLEE past - look no further than Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Santana (Naya Rivera) instructing Kitty and her Cheerio companions in the ways of witchery and bitchery as they can and did do so very remarkably well for proof. So, too, was it a welcome return to the first season and warm, fuzzy memories of GLEEs gone by that came as a result of the Thanksgiving episode opener, a sensitively insinuating and more than merely enjoyable combination of Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" and "Home" by reigning American Idol Phillip Phillips (with all six originals returning for the number, minus Rachel and Kurt). New Directions and "Gangnam Style", led by Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), was the undisputed standout insofar as pop culture pertinence and water cooler-worthy moments go - of both last week and this week - but there has been seemingly something for everyone to enjoy, all in all, over the course of the last two weeks.
As for the drama and romance? Well, Finn may enjoy filling in for Mr. Schuester (Matt Morrison) more than mending fences with Rachel if the emotional "Dynamic Duets" closer "Some Nights" (fun.) is any indication, but Kurt and Blaine seem even less likely to reconvene in any significant way anytime soon due to Blaine's foolish infidelity last year. Will and Emma continue to remain in relative romantic wedded bliss, though, while it seems Brody (Dean Geyer) and Cassandra July (Kate Hudson) remain focused on the purely physical and opportunistic side of their relationship, for better and worse. Then there is the tumultuous triangle of Marley's competing paramours recently made newfound allies, Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist). How will that all turn out? While the trysts may be a bit trying to take totally seriously from time to time - hey, it's a still supposedly just a silly teen comedy series, isn't it? - at this late date, the music makes it all worthwhile, week in and week out. Ryder & Jake's mash-up of R.E.M.'s and The Clique's same-named "Superman" was inspired in conception and evocative in its ultimate dramatic and musical depiction last week, perfectly fitting the theme. So, too, did Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Blaine share a rare duet in "Dynamic Duets", giving voice and gravitas to a rock n roll staple, David Bowie's "Heroes". Plus, next week we will experience some more truly tremendous musical material - everything from 80s staples to CHICAGO - and some more tangles and secret sides to be seen added to the triangles and developing drama that gives the songs their rich, dynamic context.
To turn a phrase from The Supremes classic, whether you are a diehard fan or a lapsed gleek, now is the ideal time to "Come see about GLEE." Indeed - go home to Ohio for the holidays.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro