SOUND OFF: GLEE's Devastating Cory Monteith Dedication
"If there's one thing I've learned from Finn dying it's that shame is a wasted emotion," Kurt (Chris Colfer) eloquently asserted mid-way through last night's unfortunately unavoidable and unabashedly emotional address of the passing of prominent Glee cast member Cory Monteith, who portrayed star quarterback Finn Hudson on the series for its entire run until this year - and, unashamed was Glee in its tribute to the fallen young star. And, unforgettable, as well.
Measure Your Life In Love
"525,600 / How do you measure a year in the life?" wrote Jonathan Larson in his Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical game-changer RENT. So sang the remaining members of McKinley High's Glee club on last nights Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan-penned GLEE, as well, directed by Falchuk and appropriately titled "The Quarterback" in Monteith and Finn's memory. While some may quibble that the tear-drenched depths to which the episode descended may have been almost too much to take for those less prone to the emotionally grotesque - real life is full of big feelings, after all, too - but, as with most things, on Glee all is writ large. Plus, it's an impossible circumstance, yet the creators, cast and crew handled the episode with the utmost care, attention and love. It was the ideal elegiac expression a gleek could have hoped for in this situation, giving due diligence to one of the most important and integral figures in the Glee firmament.
The episode began with a bare stage and white spotlights, populated by funereally outfitted 4.0 members of the Glee club that were all formally introduced last season as new carriers of the torch - Marley (Melissa Benoist), Ryder (Blake Jenner), Jake (Jacob Artist), Kitty (Becca Tobin) and Unique (Alex Newell) - before Being quickly joined by a collection of the original music-makers that made real-life, real world Glee clubs cool again around the world once upon a very recent time - namely: Kurt, Mercedes (Amber Riley), Santana (Naya Rivera), Artie (Kevin McHale), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Puck (Mark Salling) and Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), as well as the irreplaceable Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Blaine (Darren Criss). Paying homage to the legacy and pushing the group forward to the new era, sans Finn, the perfectly suited musical material was expertly matched by an unfettered and undeniably emotionally titanic rendering. The parallels of Monteith's own passing and the unexpected death of the young RENT songwriter himself, Larson, only add to the poignancy and power imbued to the sequence by making use of this modern Broadway show-stopper in this context, to say nothing of doing so in such a compelling and tasteful manner.
A series of scenes examining the impact of Finn's passing on the entire world of Glee as it exists made up the majority of the heavy episode, which nevertheless was punctuated by moments of levity - particularly needed with such utterly sad subject matter, natch. Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) served up the majority of the reliably ribald comedy, though the bitchy ripostes of Santana were even welcome - and built brilliantly to her sudden and spectacularly played breakdown near the end of her solo number, a heartrending "If I Die Young" (originally made famous by The Band Perry), and the ensuing delicately delivered list of private revelations to Kurt, as well.
Additionally, James Taylor's "Fire & Rain" acted as a strong buoy with which the Glee club could collectively join together upon in which to grieve openly, anchoring them, connected as a group through song. Exploring the group dynamics even further, the popular solo song given great gravitas by Mercedes, "I'll Stand By You" (The Pretenders) as well as some of the other musical spotlights also allowed for the gleeks to join in - in the choruses and in the tears; and no doubt many of us at home participated, too, on both accounts. Surely, the speeches given by Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Burt (Mike O'Malley) alone could melt the coldest of hearts in their searing impact. Similarly, Rachel (Lea Michele) and Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) finished the episode with an evocative and heartbreaking dual-coda in their character's respective soulful outpourings.
Alone and untouched was Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender", wrought with tangible passion by the returning, Mohawk-less Puck, as was the episode's solo musical piece de resistance - Lea Michele's supremely sung and devastating cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love", recently re-popularized by multi-award-winner Adele. Michele's real-life relationship with Monteith visibly informed every single instant of her performance in this episode and the sheer wherewithal she showed in simply getting through it all is enough to applaud, for sure - and, to enact a soul-baring monologue and song like that is worthy of standing ovations. And, a box of tissues.
Throughout the episode, PSAs for Project Limelight appeared, and awareness-raising for addiction is spotlighted in a new series of viral videos presented by the cast of GLEE, as well, putting the activism with the theatrics. Some may somewhat rightly accuse this entry in the ever-expanding Glee catalog as Being some sort of form of grief porn, taking advantage of the audience and the actual real-life tragedy that inspired the majority of the events in the episode itself, but that seems unwarranted after actually viewing the show itself.
Yes, it is easier to accept that there was no way for Glee to Go On without outwardly and even exorbitantly examining the departure of one of its most elemental figures, now or ever. Glee was partially built on the strong shoulders of Finn Hudson and last night we were witness to his final touchdown on the most theatrical pop culture mainstay of the new millennium - and it was done grandly, tastefully and always appropriately.
Farewell, Finn. As Mr. Schue said, "He was our quarterback," and he always will be.
As for what's next? Well, as Finn himself was quoted as saying - and as his McKinley High memorial plaque now reads: "The show must go... all over the place or something." That's our Finn.
Of note, don't miss BroadwayWorld's exclusive world premiere of the Glee cast performing RENT's "Seasons Of Love" from earlier this week, available here.