SOUND OFF: Science Fiction, Double Feature, TV Show
In this SOUND OFF SPECIAL EDITION we are taking a comprehensive look at Tuesday's premiere of THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW on Fox and the accompanying soundtrack that was released last week, GLEE: THE MUSIC: THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW, as well as analyzing how the show and soundtrack stacks up to previous GLEE-ful tributes - Madonna, Gaga/Journey, Britney, etc. - and in comparison to the second season, and entire series, thus far! So, what did you think of THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW by the time the credits rolled? Was it a tart and terrific time warp romp or a warped and twisted time-consuming stink bomb? A jump to the right or a step to the left? Is it always all or nothing? With ROCKY HORROR, going over-the-top is just the very start of beginning to see what's weird and wild on the other side.
Whatever Happened To A Tuesday Night?
THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW
Are you a virgin? I mean in the Transylvanian Transsexual sense, of course. For many, tonight's ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW may have been just that first exposure to the sexual showmanship and charming camp of the classic cult hit for millions of brink-of-twenty-first-century toddlers now all grown up (or almost) and watching Fox to Gleek the gluck out. No better recipe for a Gleek gateau of the greatest proportions than one of the best-known and most-beloved movie musicals of the last forty years combined with the pop-culture-phenomenon that has proven, repeatedly - in the Madonna and Britney tributes, if not so much Gaga and others - that, with all the multi-talented, sprawling cast of the show assembled to deliver one message, one theme and one general idea, few - if any - ensembles, on and off the screen, do it better than GLEE. It is a Herculean - or Damoclean, given the titular character's penchant for pecs, swords and sandals ala the mythical Greek hero - task to take on a property as iconographic, idiosyncratic - and, also, intentionally at-times, idiotic; and, at-length, graphic - and inimitable as THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. The reasons for this are voluminous. From a purely performance point-of-view, thanks to Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Charles Grey, Meat Loaf and the rest of the irreplaceable and unforgettable original film - and, in the cases of Curry and Meat Loaf, as well as creator and Riff Raff Richard O'Brien, stage cast - you are damned if you and damned if you don't as far as taking on any of those roles and imitating your inimitable predecessor or forging a new path with the fierce and fabulous inhabitants of the show and film.
Few - if any - shows set up such enormous expectations as THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW does for its cast and creative team - let alone a TV show taking on the film and stage versions simultaneously in a TV tribute episode - so it was a stroke of sheer gaudy and giddy genius to translate the smutty stage and screen show to a high school stage as a way to dissuade a bit from the very R-rated nature of the material in the guise of forced censorship passed down from those at the top. It hit close to him, it seems - on and off screen. The lyrical changes in the songs - most painfully, and regretfully, in "Sweet Transvestite" and "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" - certainly do not go a very long way in reinforcing Mr. Shue's speech to the Glee club about the importance of artistic integrity and preserving an author's intentions, both from a characterlogical perspective and an actual one granted the hubbub surround this controversial entry to the oft-risqué series. Nothing here comes close to the scantily-clad chorines and leading ladies of the Britney episode, but, then again, male sexuality is an always taboo topic today, particularly at 8 PM on national television. The casting of John Stamos as the deformed biker Eddie - instead of the mad doctor in fishnets and heels, Frank, was a decision imposed by the powers that be at Fox - furthermore reinforces the skittish nature with which this episode has been pulled off - and near-flawlessly, a fearsome feat given the prospect of property at the outset - and that... tension... is further... exacer... (wait for it)... bated... by the actual content of the episode, as we plainly saw tonight. Art met life - and the world met the world of Rocky Horror, emphasis on the latter.
Less tribute show than the "Brittany/Britney" or "The Power of Madonna" episode, THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW covered many series-specific plot points while simultaneously fully exploring the themes, music, style and iconography of the ROCKY HORROR phenomenon. It was - without a doubt - a Franken-show that glitteringly and glisteningly glows! Ryan Murphy wrote THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW and it was directed by none other than HAIRSPRAY film-helmer Adam Shankman, so from the opening credits roll over the ruby red lips that so famously open the film and this new GLEE incarnation of the ROCKY HORROR phenomenon to the "Time Warp" wrap-up it was all musical-movie-freak meet Gleek. Half GLEE, half HORROR. While the story arcs of the season were adequately attended to - Sue vs. Will was especially delightful thanks to the cameos of Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf setting the wheels of plot in motion - Murphy shrewdly tackled a number of inciting and valid topics in this episode that pertain particularly to the epoch of ROCKY HORROR as it pertains to the perception of male sexuality and the twenty-first century male sexualizing in society, pertinent to the just-post-pubescent. The implicit parallel drawn by Murphy with the foot ball players showing as much insecurity in their appearance as the hottest and sexiest female cheerleaders shows the spin so effortlessly set forth over the course of this - and virtually any - episode of GLEE and the subversive nature of Murphy‘s seemingly sporadic plotlines. He is always catching us off guard - as ROCKY HORROR does with the uninitiated, which makes it the Shue-proclaimed "perfect show for this club". Being a devoted GLEE watcher is being part of a very special, select, exclusive club, even with a name all its own - a Gleek - just as being part of the Rocky Horror cult is. How potently - and entertainingly - that mélange - that marriage of Murph-en-stein and the Bride of Rocky - has been presented. Brava.
It's potent stuff, ROCKY HORROR, and the fact that the episode addressed the racy and raunchy nature of the show was a smart way to present the place of a show that actually reveals, parades, exploits and celebrates so many of the issues at play with people - especially men - at that age - yet the failure of the establishment to let the themes of the show to be shown as healthy and not sacrosanct and forbidden. ROCKY HORROR and all its associations may seem tame to some today, but when taken in the high school context we quickly realize how far we have not come since the free-love era of the past, especially the seventies. The simple fact that "Transsexual Transylvania" cannot be said on the show says it all, really. Major praise is due to Murphy, Shankman and company for pulling off a sparkling, sensitive and worthwhile homage to the show, movie, style, themes, mythology, ethos and adding its very own entry to the ROCKY HORROR legacy. The funniest moments of the night came courtesy of Lea Michele whispering "Please be EVITA, please be EVITA!" under her breath as Mr. Shue was announcing this year's choice for school musical, closely followed by Sue and the exquisite timing and facial quirks of the Emmy-winning best TV villain, played by Jane Lynch - especially in her interactions with her sister and Shue himselF. Quinn, Brittany and Santana played pretty pivotal roles in the night's musical proceedings - switching off to play and sing Columbia and Magenta in nearly every number, none the least Santana's literally lip-smacking "Science Fiction, Double Feature, as well as the featured vocals in "Touch-a", "Time Warp", "Sweet Transvestite" and more - and the presence of Dianna Agron, Heather Morris and Naya Rivera is always rousing and memorable, and their portrayals of their characters are so much more than what other actresses could have made of them, particularly in this especially strong show. Lea Michele does not get as much solo material as usual, and neither does Cory Moteith - though his inclusion in "Time Warp" was a welcome surprise and insightful addition given the context of the finale version of the show/song. The sets and costumes accentuated the show's respectful nod to the show and the various visual homages to Jim Sharman's beyond perfect film version were always apropos - especially in the mostly-successful soul redux of "Sweet Transvestite" from Amber Riley and "Time Warp" with a creepy and exciting Chris Colfer as Riff Raff. Perhaps the best musical moment of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and its iterations is in "There's A Light (Over At The Frankenstein Place)" and its reappearance throughout the episode was rightful given the gorgeous vocal refrain given to Janet, here sung perhaps the best of any Janet - sorry Susan Sarandon, Alice Ripley and Kristen Lee Kelly - which is no small praise. "Dammit Janet" was near-ideal as well, with Michele and Monteith providing appealing and compelling takes on Brad and Janet.
Frankly (pun intended), Michele and Monteith would be quite perfect as Brad and Janet for the purported film remake that Murphy has been offered to write and direct. Stamos, too was positively spine-tingly rockin' on "Whatever Happened To A Saturday Night?" heretofore referred to as "Hot Patootie", but, never matter, Stamos was a crackling and crackerjack Eddie and his Beach Boys training added a delicious note of real-rocker sincerity to his song. He could be a great Frank someday. So could Matt Morrison. I was one of the lucky ones who got to see him as one of the Phantoms in Christopher Ashley's stunning and sexy 2000 revival of the musical and he was stupendous in a small chorus role, just as he is a blazing bright light in the strongest shining cast on television with his lead role on GLEE. The future looks bright. After all, this episode only tackled less than half of the score and some of the most musically interesting songs - "The Floor Show", "Super Heroes", "Planet, Schmanet, Janet" - didn't make the cut for this episode, so who knows what the future may hold for Frank, Rocky and co. in the GLEE universe in the future. While this episode was out-of-this-world, the limitations of network television have prevented it from being all that it undoubtedly could have been - perhaps at 10 PM on Saturday night in a TV-MA version, complete with uncensored songs and threatening sexuality - but the compromise offered by Murphy in his delicately devised and deliciously devilish teleplay make it a worthwhile entry in the ROCKY HORROR universe and one of the best episodes of GLEE to date.
Expecting the bloodless, the red stuff was rigorously flowing to all extremities with no signs of rigamortis setting in, proving the body beautiful borne of this mad genius Ryan Murphy, both GLEE and THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW, were things of weird and wonderful - and wacky - beauty to examine, cherish and near-breathlessly behold, whether viewed by a voracious vampire or a vestal virgin her - or him, or it - self. Sure, this was a bit buttoned-up if you were expecting an R-rated romp, but it's impossible to deny that it was loose enough to let the time warp tick-tock of the hypnotic rock at the core of the O'Brien score to win us over once again and solid, undeniable proof positive that ROCKY HORROR will rock on for decades - and millennia - to come.
Whatever happened to a Tuesday night? GLEE did - thank Frank. And Ryan Murphy. So, when is DANCE OF THE GLEE VAMPIRES?
Creatures of the Night
GLEE: THE MUSIC: THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW
All of the ROCKY HORROR songs will be contextualized in the format set forth for the episode by the creators so any suppositions or assumptions made about what is to come visually are merely derived from the content of the album as it is plain to hear. The casting is more befitting than may at first meet the brain and eye - and other parts. But, one thing is for sure: your ear will be pleased. Just taking a listen to the vocals, casting and content of the album is more than enough to call it a win given the care that the cast and creators have obviously taken in this - and, as THE POWER OF MADONNA and BRITNEY/BRITTANY proved, all their homage episodes - and in all of the best moments of the show so far, of which it seems clear THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW is one. The seven songs of the album explore the strange universe of the show (and subsequent film) just enough to satisfy the die-hard fans without wearing out their welcome, but never overloading the episode with unnecessary medleys or snippets in an attempt to get everything in, since so many moments are so quotable and quite queerly now near-quotidian (given the bizarre nature of the story and style) in the pop culture landscape in 2010. Word on the street is that the episode has so impressed executives that Murphy may bring a full-blown ROCKY HORROR remake to the big screen. He has certainly has found some super-fine specimens for Brad and Janet (and Eddie)!
Lea Michele makes a pleasingly pretty and plaintive sounding Janet Weiss in "Dammit, Janet", with Cory Monteith - somewhat shockingly - showing some of his strongest singing and most at-ease duetting with Ms. Michele since the very first episode's now near-legendary "Don't Stop Believing" behind the geeky glasses of Brad Majors. This is their best duet since then. While it will always be impossible to capture the naiveté and puppy-love sloppy slobberring of the film version's young Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, Michele and Monteith make their material together more moving and sincere than it probably should be given the oh-so-cynical and camp source material and this meta-musical take on it (and ROCKY HORROR itself). Speaking of the previous Brad and Janet, it has been confirmed Bostwick will appear on the episode and Sarandon has been rumored to be making an eleventh-hour cameo. "There's A Light" is one of the strongest musical moments in the show, building to a quite spine-tinglingly thrilling climax after its creepy and disjointed prelude. Chris Colfer is a magnetic Riff Raff and he and Dianna Agron make a delicious pair of Transsexual Transylvanians. The most controversial casting of the episode will undoubtedly reveal itself to be Amber Riley as Frank N Furter but her "Sweet Transvestite" is more persuasive - if more BJ Crosby and less PJ Harvey - than this reviewer antici - wait for it! - pated it would be. I'm still not sure it completely works, but perhaps while lulled under the hypnotic, magic spell of the show it will be the revelation it could potentially prove to be given the 360 turnaround take on the transvestite doctor. Since "The Sword of Damocles" is not one of the songs from ROCKY HORROR that made the cut, Chord Overstreet seems to have to settle for being gold-clad eye-candy and leave the rest of the heavy vocal lifting to the others, which is a shame since he could have done a frisky Jonas Brothers-type take on that very Jerry Lee Lewis-esque rocker. Maybe in the movie?
Speaking of rock n rollers - and people who should be considered for the remake if it does indeed come to fruition- John Stamos reappears following his role as the dentist in the Britney Spears tribute to take on the mantle of Meat Loaf and the aborted aberration known as Eddie. Meat Loaf, of course, originally played Eddie in the stage and screen versions of ROCKY HORROR - but sometimes Beach Boy Stamos actually manages to make the feverish slightly-rockabilly number all his own. That's no small feat. Sure, the auto-tune makes him sound eerily like John Cameron Mitchell at times, but he more than carries off the tune and his energy and enthusiasm is such that he could be the second season's answer to, now, two-time-Emmy-winning Neil Patrick Harris (for last year's Tony Awards and his show=stopping GLEE-ppearance). I smell a power balled hard rocker ala Aerosmith's "Dream On" for Stamos and Morrison coming soon! Or, so we may hope! More than any of the other performers as represented on this short soundtrack - and, as pointed out earlier, all are unique in their portrayals while giving a wink to the weird world of the original - Stamos seems to embody the 50s rapscallion devil-may-care James Dean-ish attitude and intention of O'Brien's original conception of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and his participation in this soundtrack is one of the two ripe blood-red cherries on this ghoulish GLEE sundae. The other belongs to Jayma Mays - finally revealing her full promise and potential as she did in her initial audition for the show, since she sang this very same song - the incredibly apropos, given her hypochondriacally hysterical character, the bud-to-blossom sexual empowerment girl-group-er "Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me". The only major misstep of the show as it stands on disc is the assumed-to-be-forced (by Fox) censorship of "Sweet Transvestite" and "Touch-A", but such is the case with the film on television, as well (unless it runs as TV-MA). Especially with the tracks from Mays and Stamos - and, Hell (pun intended), all in all, the whole bloody affair - you are left singing and shrieking (with delight) like Janet, "I've tasted blood and I want more / More, more, more!"
More On: Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Meat Loaf, Richard O'Brien, John Stamos, Ryan Murphy.