SOUND OFF: GLEE Goes Out With Tons Of Tears, Touching Tributes & Terrific Tunes (Plus, A Tony)
Tonight we revisit the highpoints and recount the overall impact of GLEE, from pilot to series finale. The Winner Takes It All "I'm not afraid of moving on and letting go / It's just so hard to say goodbye to what I know," Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) touchingly voiced in "This Time", an original song penned by GLEE's own Darren Criss for the series finale of the long-running FOX musical dramedy series that came to a close tonight with a two-hour finale spectacular. Indeed, it's been quite a journey from 2009 until now, especially for the most diehard and committed gleeks among us, but GLEE went out with all the expected fireworks - emotional, musical and otherwise. "This time no one's gonna say goodbye / I keep you in this heart of mine / This time I know it's never over," Rachel reminded us in the chorus of the powerful final song she sang on the series, and, now the same goes for us gleeks - we'll fondly remember the good memories, try to forget the lesser moments and cherish the many gifts that GLEE gave us over the years. In the end, it is almost to impossible to believe that a TV series could raise awareness for music departments in schools, whether woefully struggling (like many) or wildly successful (like few) - let alone theatre music - in the manner that GLEE has done over the last six years, and, if only for that, we have much to celebrate and be grateful for, now and always. Although the later run of the series admittedly largely failed to match the heavenly entertainment highs and pop culture lightning in a bottle of the first few seasons, GLEE has always had the best intentions at heart - that is: bringing the music of Broadway, the Great American Songbook and pop classics both new and old to the masses and reinforcing the importance of arts education in schools. We salute that and the final hours of the series tonight with a moment of silence and a very special toast. The series finale kicked off with a flashback episode bringing to mind many of the weird, wacky and off-the-wall elements that have remained a hallmark of the GLEE universe since its inception with a colorful, cute and unique ep titled "2009". Since GLEE is all about the music anyway, the fact that the finale boasted a musical theatre showstopper of the highest order was a pleasure to experience, particularly early on in the ep - a standout from Broadway mega-hit WICKED performed by fan favorite BFFs Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer), no less. Of course, attentive BroadwayWorld readers will note that not only did we premiere "Popular" in this very column earlier this week, available here, but also ceremoniously hosted the world premieres of the other two WICKED songs that GLEE has covered in seasons past; the heartwarming finale duet "For Good" and the Act One barn-burner, "Defying Gravity". It all came full-circle tonight, though, not only for GLEE itself, but BroadwayWorld's very special relationship with the cultural touchstone that shaped an entire generation's manner of perceiving the arts, music and musicals. In addition to "Popular" from WICKED, the finale also showcased another musical theatre notable - if only by association - via the ABBA jukebox musical smash MAMMA MIA! 11 o'clocker "The Winner Takes It All", movingly portrayed by the one and only GLEE villain supreme Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), with some assured assistance from friendly foe Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison). So, too, did Mr. Schue get one final ukulele-accented solo with which to shine before the final moments thanks to the wisely chosen, all-too apt and no doubt heartstring-plucking classic rock ditty "Teach Your Children", originally popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Psychedelic rock staple "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees also got its due in a Klaine - that is, Kurt and Blaine - duet specialty song sequence complete with dozens of future gleeks looking on and eventually joining in on the frivolity and fun. Similarly, Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) shined with a Diana Ross & The Supremes hallmark perfectly befitting of the hopeful concluding theme of the night, "Someday We'll Be Together", while also grabbing the spotlight with a soulful and affecting "I'm His Child" (Zella Jackson Price) rave-up in the first hour. The tributes definitely ran the gamut from ABBA to Zella Jackson Price and beyond, with some other carefully chosen musical moments to complete the arc of many characters on the series - Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) made the most of the ubiquitous Katy Perry smash "I Kissed A Girl" in an amusing homage, while Artie (Kevin McHale) once again showed evidence of being the foremost white boy with soul thanks to Ginuwine's filthy R&B bump-and-grinder "Pony". Needless to say, no major GLEE episode would be entirely complete without a generous nod to fallen GLEE star Cory Monteith and his character, Finn, so Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" made a plosive impact byway of its delicately placed inclusion in the proceedings - as much as THE SOPRANOS series finale may owe a debt in its overall iconography to the 80s Journey hit, so, too, does GLEE remain irrevocably associated with it as a result of its impacting and indelible use in the show's pilot. Wrapping it all up with a crimson-and-white-hued, candy cane-tastic finale, OneRepublic's "I Lived" was as apropos a send-off as any on a series that always promoted the classic songs of Broadway, the Great American Songbook and pop hits of yore along with the newest and coolest tunes as heard on the radio, internet and beyond - and they did it again tonight. Subsequently, all considered, the GLEE stew was respectfully represented in the songstack of the series finale and acted as a welcome reminder of the vast, varied and very, very memorable catalog of tunes - more than 700 - that GLEE brought to a wide audience over the course of its run, many of them likely the first time that those in the audience had ever heard them; young and old alike. After all, the likelihood that a 7-year-old recognizes Cole Porter's "You're The Top" is as speculative as a 70-year-old digging Kanye West's "Gold Digger" - while refraining from being outwardly ageist about it, of course; facts are facts. And, more to the point, that's part of the power that GLEE has wielded all along - bringing the generations together through music in dramatically, thematically and uniquely arresting ways. "Don't stop believin' / Just hold on to the feeling," Journey's unforgettable anthem reminds us in its epic chorus - and, as ABBA's hit also eloquently alludes, "The game is all you get." Therefore, if GLEE was a game, it was a surefire winner and unquestionably the biggest champion of the arts as seen on network TV in the 21st century. For that, and for all the laughter, tears and showstoppers, we salute it - and celebrate it. At the end of the day, if there is any message left for us to savor now that GLEE is over forever it is: Don't stop. Don't stop believing in your dreams, don't stop believing in the power and importance of the arts, and, most of all, don't stop believing in yourself. Just hold on.
Photo Credits: FOX