SOUND OFF: GLEE's Divine Divas
Unmissable BroadwayWorld reference included, last night's GLEE was a spectacular addition to the theme show collective of FOX's hit musical comedy series thus far in its rich history, nearly eighty episodes in now that it is in Season Four, with an exceptionally explosive episode directed by Paris Barclay and written by Brad Falchuk, "Diva." The leading ladies of legend acted as the foundation of the fodder for the fabulous episode - dramatically, musically, thematically and otherwise - with a music-heavy show featuring a plethora of memorable musical numbers and a generally fancy-free storyline ending in a shocking cliffhanger ending - Santana (Naya Rivera) moves to NYC to live with Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer), unbeknownst to them; suitcase in tow! Uh oh!
Girls On Fire
Beyonce. Madonna. Barbra Streisand. Tina Turner. All are the sheer definition of the word "diva" - which may be described quite like Beyonce sings in her hip-hop anthem, "Diva"; "A diva is a female form of a hustler," and, being married to rap mogul Jay-Z, she should know. Yet, there are some male divas - devo (singular and plural) - such as those paid tribute to last night on GLEE, as well, don't forget - Freddie Mercury and Hugh Jackman, to name but two, in addition to others such as Elton John, Little Richard and Peter Allen. For every Girl On Fire there is a Mr. Fahrenheit. That little extra something beyond even the "It" factor - the stuff that makes up many, if not most, divas and explains some of their rise to prominence - was amply evident in the surprisingly strong diva-themed episode. An original gleek, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), was showcased in one of her most prominent storylines on the show to date and scored with the drama, comedy, and, of course, the music, of her conflicted girl falling for the gay guy plot - in this case, Tina has fallen for Blaine (Darren Criss). Indeed, Tina stopped the show with her iteration of Madonna's dance smash "Hung Up" on the musical side of the spectrum, acting as the episode's climax - featuring that unforgettable riff from ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme"; MAMMA MIA among the many musical references made in last night's jam-packed musical-reference-strong show; such as HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, FUNNY GIRL's BroadwayWorld mention and the aforementioned special LES MISERABLES duet. But, that romantic relationship between Tina and Blaine, such that it tentatively is, seems sadly doomed, does it not? Ushkowitz made the most of her material, in any event, with her mournful and melancholy bed-set soul-baring to Blaine among her best moments on the show to date. Brava. The rest of that storyline? Not so much.
Beyonce's propulsive and ingratiatingly inspiring "Diva" acted as the ideal way to kick off the female empowerment-centric episode from a musical point of view, powerfully led by gender-bending grand dame Unique (Alex Newell) alongside the ladies and honorary male divas of New Directions. Surely, Marley (Melissa Benoist) as well as Kitty (Becca Tobin) and Brittany (Heather Morris) managed to provide some titillating visuals to offset the beefcake-heavy activities of last week's Men Of McKinley calender focused "Naked" episode. "They say that true divas aren't really mortal...," or, at least, so sayeth Finn (Cory Monteith) mere moments before Santana takes on a titanic Tina Turner R&B classic, "Nutbush City Limits", with verifiable proof. Combustible! Topping it all off with consummation of her status as a lipstick lesbian with a lady-loving lip-lock, no less, Rivera has made Santana a standout of Season Four and her assumedly more pronounced role in the proceedings coming up given her inclusion in the NYC-GLEE gives us much to look forward to, too. "Make No Mistake, She's Mine," indeed - let's hope we can call her ours - to crib the title phrase from the Barbra Streisand/Kim Carnes EMOTION 1980s pop curiosity that acted as the vocal duel between the two paramours competing for Brittany's affections; that is, Santana and Sam (Chord Overstreet). Barbra to Beyonce, "Diva" gave us a lot to sing about - and remember - even the return of Miss Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) and another unexpected kiss, this one shared with Finn. What exactly will that spell for next week's wedding? We will have to wait and see, but Mr. Schue (Matt Morrison) better be wary!
As big and bad and formidable as the tremendous talents of Beyonce, Tina, Barbra and Kim Carnes may be, Blaine made a seriously strong case for Queen's Freddie Mercury as an essential element of the diva firmament with his stunning "Don't Stop Me Now" - which would have been just as effective with or without the CRUISING-era leather bar get-up, by the way. Yet, the NYC-set portion of GLEE's Season Four bisected overall story managed to give us an even grander diva moment than any of these in the form of Rachel and Kurt's LES MISERABLES sing-off of "Bring Him Home". Whether Hugh Jackman, Colm Wilkinson, Alfie Boe or someone else is your favorite interpreter of one of the most beloved ballads contained in the iconic LES MISERABLES score, this twofer GLEE take well-done and welcome, coming off as much more than a cash-in on the hit status of the currently-playing movie musical. After all, GLEE is all about celebrating musical theatre - now, then and always - and the performing arts and the more we see of not only the new cast of characters a McKinley High, but, also, the attendees of the New York City arts academy NYADA and how they interact with each other gives us even more reason to tune in each week to the most Broadway baby-friendly show on network TV. I mean, what other show gives BroadwayWorld a shout-out?
All things considered, Santana certainly was the ultimate diva of "Diva" between her final song, a stirring version of the Alicia Keys hit "Girl On Fire", and the final unexpected reveal of her arriving at Rachel and Kurt's abode all the way in NYC - particularly coming after Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch)'s generous offer to her to become an assistant cheerleading coach; a job which, assumedly, she would take. Week in and week out, GLEE continues to surprise us, though, and last night Jenna Ushkowitz gave us another reason besides even Santana's ferocity to remember why we fell in love with her in the first place as a part of the original core of characters that made up the heart of GLEE from the very start.
There is always something new to love on GLEE - and a reason to fall in love all over again. And again.