SOUND OFF: GLEE's Role-Reversing Return
Last night, GLEE made its big Winter return on FOX with Episode 11 of Season Four, titled "Sadie Hawkins", a virtually (and sonically) dizzying, plot-packed and music-bedecked episode written by Ross Maxwell and directed by Bradley Buecker. New characters were introduced, fresh romances were born and furthered and a whole hell of a lot of songs were sung - making it, all in all, a GLEE just right for the midway point of the season and a welcome way to return to the wildly, brazenly idiosyncratic world of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Bonuses: Puck (Mark Salling) and Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink) were both back!Locked Out Of Heaven From a JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR classic - no less than "I Don't Know How to Love Him", made memorable by Yvonne Elliman onstage and onscreen, as well as Helen Reddy on record in the 1970s - to an au currant Bruno Mars chart-topper - the Sting & The Police-inspired ear-candy "Locked Out Of Heaven" from his spectacular sophomore album UNORTHODOX JUKEBOX - to golden oldies by The Exciters - catchy, Motown-infused "Tell Him" - and The Flamingos - crooner classic "I Only Have Eyes For You" - to even two hip-hop staples - TLC's "No Scrubs" and Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" (done acoustically, natch) - GLEE's "Sadie Hawkins" episode showed the myriad strengths of this particular series in chopping up plot, dicing up characters and mixing up music with it all to create a hearty, heavenly stew byway of the melting pot of music, drama, comedy and social awareness (and outrageousness) that houses it and contains it all somehow. While last night's episode may have lacked any involvement from two usual show stalwarts, Mr. Schu (Matthew Morrison) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), the new and old members of New Directions, as well as the colorful and ever-growing cast of characters whom populate NYADA in the NYC-set portion of GLEE 4.0 kept it all afloat, bubbly and lively, with the show itself seamlessly showcasing storytelling as we have come to expect from the unique GLEE world thus far, nearly eighty episodes into its run. We have covered a lot of ground, after all, haven't we? Characterlogically, dramatically, comedically, musically, sociologically - and the plights and problems of the rotating dramatis personae continue to remain compelling, week in and week out. The frenetic and frantic nature of it all is more or less just as evident as it always was, yet the flow of GLEE 4.0 as we have come to know it has now seemed to find its own rhythm - for example, first and foremostly: the Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) storyline set at the performing arts school in Manhattan does not feel totally unrelated and unimportant to the goings on back home in Lima, OH, involving all the gleeks of New Directions. Is it completely flawless in its execution? Far from it. Yet, it works - more or less. What really works, though - more than any other element, no doubt- is the overwhelming amount of talent on prime display, which was an appreciably enjoyable element of last night's role-reversing Sadie Hawkins dance-set episode to experience and savor. While the original gleeks will be hard to top, even the secondary players from the GLEE universe have now more than merely proven their considerable mettle with not only the drama and comedy, but, most of all, with the musical element of the musical series. Case in point: NYADA vocal group Adam's Apples and its leader, played by new cast member Oliver Kieran-Jones (originally made famous by Jonathan Coulton), and his unforgettable introductory number. While Sir Mix-A-Lot's iconic booty-shaker "Baby Got Back" is known for its fast rhymes and syncopation, this controversial (evidently this isn't the first time someone has sung it this way), yet ultimately rewarding reconsideration of the old school gem was a bet that ultimately paid off for the creators, cast and crew who enacted it all - as was the entire Snowball showcase sequence. Indeed - so, too, did the boys of New Directions make the girl group earworm originally made a mega-hit by R&B/hip hop trio TLC, "No Scrubs", into an absolute must-see performance of the especially strong show - perhaps even making it the most memorable musical moment of the night. The girls of New Directions, led by Brittany (Heather Morris) and Marley (Melissa Benoist), with some welcome aid by Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) and Unique (Wade Adams), made the of-the-moment Bruno Mars #1 smash "Locked Out Of Heaven" a gender-bended female empowerment anthem, while they also breathed some fresh air into their traditionally rendered take on the retro 60s hit "Tell Him". Similarly, Ryder (Blake Jenner) winningly led the New Directions in a cool turn on the ingratiating throwback jam "I Only Have Eyes For You". Original gleek, but all-too-rarely featured player Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) got a moment in the solo spotlight at long last with her impassioned iteration of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice ballad of ballads, Mary Magdalene's unrequited love ode "I Don't Know How To Love Him" from their 1970 rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Let's hope we hear more from that legendary and genre-redefining relatively contemporary musical masterpiece this season if this is any indication of what the current cast can bring to that important theatre score. As for the plot points and character developments of last night, much seems to be in a state of chaos for many - but, then again, this is GLEE, so what can we really expect? Love is messy and so is life, particularly from the ages of 16 to 22 or so, which is the age range of most of these characters. Choices being decided, relationships forming and crumbling and major, life-changing moves being made makes for mucho dramatic and comedic fodder, but, in short, to cover the major events: with Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) now out of the picture at McKinley, Tina is pining for gay Blaine (Darren Criss), who has developed a crush on assumedly all-straight Sam (Chord Overstreet) while his boyfriend Kurt is off at NYADA with Rachel and her new boyfriend Brody (Dean Geyer), at least now that Brody has shorn himself of too many romantic ties to NYADA instructor and mega-bitch Cassandra (Kate Hudson), at least for the time being. In yet another gleek love triangle - or, make that, rectangle - we have Marley, Noah (Jacob Artist), Kitty (Becca Tobin) and Ryder in the throes of tumult resulting from Cupid's bow being drawn and squarely striking its target(s). What will next week bring when the girls continue to call the shots and the guys get down to bare bottom basics - literally; their underwear - in the name of a charity cheesecake calendar? We will have to tune in to see, but "Sadie Hawkins" was more than just a pleasant diversion and divvied up the drama, comedy, music and memorable moments as the best episodes of GLEE always have, and, thankfully, continue to do,
And, they did it all without the help of steroids! Or The Warblers.