SOUND OFF: GLEE 100! The Original Ten Return
The Beatles once sang, "You say goodbye / I say hello," and so it goes with the gang on FOX's hit musical dramedy Glee - new beginnings; new endings; and, well, New Directions, too. GLEE's "100" episode reunited the original crew - minus, of course, the tragically deceased Cory Monteith, who played headlining football hero Finn and who was paid elegant tribute with grace and class both last week and this week in his absence - with the addition of the new gleeks added in the ensuing seasons. While many of the new stars never managed to capture the lighting in a bottle that the originals commanded, it is undeniable that they each provided their own special spice in the Glee stew and a handful broke out to considerable prominence in other mediums; Broadway and beyond, particularly in the case of Darren Criss aka Blaine. Nonetheless, what made us all fall in love with Glee in the first place, lo, more than five seasons ago, was that original recipe - and it's still as savory, spicy, sweet and mouth-watering as ever, as last night's spectacular celebratory entry showcased in spades; and hearts, too. But, yet, we are forced to ask: is this the end or the beginning?
10 x 10 = 100
While some may say that it is impossible to go back in time or to conjure actual magic out of nothing (if the ability to do such things actually even exists in the world at all), Glee has proven time and time again that anything is possible - absolutely anything - with a little flair, focus and fire. Case in point: last night's notably epic entry. Undoubtedly infused with a high octane content, "100" reunited not only the core cast of the series, but the co-creators themselves, as well, who collaboratively penned the sharply-written show - Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan; directed by stalwart and savvy helmer Paris Barclay, by the way. Although it would be easy to list 100 reasons why the episode was an emotional, energized and all around excellent entertainment experience for gleeks and otherwise, if not much more, perhaps it would be wisest and most instructive to bring the elaborate equation of its success down to its bare essentials and list the ten topmost reasons why it was so - with it all multiplied by the original ten New Directions teammates represented; that is: Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Chris Colfer, Heather Morris, Naya Rivera, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin McHale, Dianna Agron and Harry Shum Jr.; as well as the unfortunately absent but remembered and recognized Cory Monteith. Plus, what would Glee be without Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison), too?!
So, here's the list - in order of appearance.
10. The return of April Rhodes (Kristin Chenoweth)! Indeed, the long-awaited re-entry of boozy, bubbly and all around ballsy Rhodes into the Glee sphere was a more than merely welcome one, with her introductory song on the effervescent ep shared with fellow Broadway baby Matthew Morrison, in perhaps one of his final shining moments on the series as it exists given the ensuing NYC shift in focus (and how about those tearful final scenes?!). Recent radio hit "Raise Your Glass" was the first of a handful of Glee showcase song selections given a sparkling new rendition on last night's ep - all chosen by fans in a recent poll - and it was, to cite a lyric from Pink's hit, "Too school for cool." Cheers!
9. Sapphic Spears. Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Brittany (Heather Morris) reconvened with the New Directions and their legendary lesbian leading lady otherwise known as Santana (Naya Rivera) for a positively collar-popping reworking of the Britney Spears smash "Toxic" ala CHICAGO's "Cell Block Tango", complete with lacy lingerie and a copious skin quotient. Scintillating and sexy, while still sonorous - and some slinky moves, too. The only downside is that the trio couldn't have had the time to do another take on a contemporary pop classic in their unmistakable style while back together. Plus, on the note of Brittany: FONDUE FOR TWO (and attendant kissing cats), too!
8. Biff McIntosh aka special guest star Chace Crawford. Gossip Girl met Glee in his appearance and the pay-off was expectably enjoyable, with a biting and satirical storyline afforded the able actor, imbued with a trademark Glee unexpected twist in the romantic re-pairing of Puck and Quinn. Biff was a smug, smarmy and barely tolerable, yet another unusual and strangely alluring character in Murphy's coterie of outrageously named and gloriously back-storied personalities - such as April Rhodes, a foremost and fantastically important part of the comic highlights of the show last night, along with returning champ Holly Holiday (Gwyneth Paltrow). More on the latter later.
7. "Defying Gravity", Diva-Off style. Once upon a time, BroadwayWorld hosted the world premiere of WICKED's final musical number, "For Good", as it was seen on the show in the very first NYC-set episode back at the conclusion of Season Two (and filmed on the actual stage of the Gershwin Theatre, no less), and, this week, we proudly presented the newest Glee take on a WICKED tune - this time, the soaring and spine-tingling "Defying Gravity" (available here), as movingly, tenderly and memorably realized in the showstopper moment by Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Rachel (Lea Michele); with Kurt (Chris Colfer). Wow, right?! But, as Rachel herself queried, the real question still really remains: who is the true star of the Glee club? Maybe the answer is not a name, but a number: 10.
6. Dance fever. "Valerie", originally by The Zutons and popularized by Amy Winehouse was provided with some seriously attention-grabbing moves by the fabulously gifted Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) as well as Santana and Brittany. All that was missing was a more pronounced choreographed moment for dance dynamo Jake (Jacob Artist), though his inclusion in the quartet was surefire. Needless to say, the song hit the spot and the dance reminded us why Mike is missed so very much since his departure a few seasons back, though Jake has been filling in nicely, for sure. What will come of the dance element coming up, though? We shall see.
5. Puck comes back - Part 1! Mark Salling has been absent from the series for long enough to make his return a welcome surprise in its charm and affable, easygoing rock sensibility - a shining musical moment given him in the form of "Keep Holding On" (Avril Lavigne), with some dramatic subtext injected into his relationship and even shared parenthood with Quinn, now ensconced with Biff. Or not. Anyway, it was a wise choice and an appreciable change of pace in an otherwise pop-heavy show and his mature development as a character made for a hearty and heartfelt characterization.
4. Puck comes back - Part 2! Puck punches out Biff, sending him flying into the dumpster. "Dirty little slutbag"? What could be worse?! Just desserts well-earned in Biff's boundless buffoonery. And, a return to the dumpster was a knowing wink to the true fans among the viewers, no doubt, as well. Cute.
3. Sue Sylvester as William Henry Harrison. Well, that says it all, doesn't it?! If the sword sheath fits... tippy canoe!
2. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams given the Holly Holiday treatment - with guest vocal by Blaine, natch. Suave and spirited, the infectious recent Oscar nominee for Best Song was another in a longstanding tradition of of-the-minute chart-toppers given a reinvigorated and reinvented spin byway of the talented corps of McKinley High - or, come next week, NYC! Maybe Holly will end up taking a bite of the Big Apple?! We'll see.
1. Looking ahead. The future is uncertain and without a doubt there shall be some expected growing pains to anticipate as we stare into the final third of S5 and into the final season of the series next year, but the promise of exciting new Manhattan adventures, as well as the prospect of a pronounced focus on the theatre world and Broadway itself via the FUNNY GIRL plotline - in the Glee universe, real-life and otherwise, as the case may be; don't miss my new InDepth InterView with Lea Michele for more on that (available here) - makes for something to look forward to with, I guess you would say, glee.
Next week? The New Directions take... new directions! So says the title of the episode, at least. Plus, more April Rhodes! Stay tuned.