If you’re not a musical kind of person, you would not like GLEE, the new Fox musical comedy series which had its pilot episode on television last May 19, 2009. Because every high school musical fanatic would have to wait for four months to see the next episode, I would like to believe that the premiere is an epilogue to American Idol. I was a bit skeptical about the show when a friend first mentioned it to me, that it is another one of those teenage musical shows trying to be at the level of HSM but failed.
I was even more curious about it based on the fact that the show is by Fox and not by Disney. So I went to spend one hour of my weekend to take a look at it and I was really impressed.
Glee’s pilot episode promised its audience a lot. It took one of the most overused stories in the world – to follow your dream or passion no matter what. Let’s face it – that is very inspirational yet cheesy and so cliche. However, what the creator/director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Popular) brought on the screen is a hodgepodge of genres that should have been chaotic and unfocused but created an exhilarating, unpredictable and still inspiring musical story.
The story revolves around the high school Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) who took on his shoulders the “Titanic” job of reviving the school’s glee club that went on to gather 6 talented, ambitious but quirky “New Directions” members. He is likable and always seems to be holding something back, a past and a passion. He is married with ambitious Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) who always nags him to be an accountant instead of wasting his time being a teacher and sulking in his musical past.
The one who enlist with a golden star beside her name and the emerging leader of the club was Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), a product of two gay guys (I still have to fathom this) but a very talented, beautiful and self-promoting sophomore who tries hard to be accepted. She posted a video of herself singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables in her MySpace page but received a comment “get sterilized” from the mean cheerleaders. She knows she can sing and sings well but also thinks that everybody despises her. The glee club, however, posed a promise of breaking free from ridicule and to change other people’s perception about her.
Then the others who signed in: Kurt (Chris Colfer), a fashionista with a falsetto singing voice; Mercedes (Amber Riley) who thinks she’s Beyonce and will never sing backup; Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), a punk Asian girl who stutters but has a powerful voice; and Artie (Kevin McHale), a geeky polio victim but strums the guitar like crazy.
Will, however, realized something’s lacking and went on to recruit from the jocks and cheerleaders, following the advice of the school’s germiphobic guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) that the group needs popularity. In the process, he discovered Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), the quarterback, who has a pop-rock voice and secret passion to perform the Journey. The character of Finn might easily be compared with Troy Bolton of HSM but its more grounded and real.
Another acting delight of the show is Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, the mean cheerleading coach who treats members of the glee club as worthy of the school’s basement.
Glee also promises a well-crafted musical acting especially from the actor Matthew Morrison whose big break came when he did Hairspray as Link Larkin; who was nominated for his performance as Fabrizio Nacarelli in Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza and starred in the South Pacific as Lt. Cable. He also appeared in the recent movie Taking Chance. Lea Michele, on the other hand, created the role of Wendla Bergman in the Tony-award winning hit musical Spring Awakening and played the role of Eponine in Hollywood Bowl’s Les Miserables. Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked, Pushing Daisies), another musical powerhouse, would also grace the show.
The musical numbers are big and quite a mishmash which made me realize that the show is to continue the frenzy over American Idol – there’s Broadway/showtunes, pop-rock, standards, R&B and even country that may be mashed up to create that Sister Act effect. One is the funny but brilliant choir performance of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab. Then there’s the show’s theme song Don’t Stop Believin’ of the Journey revised for a show-stopping choir and Broadway-ish version. The magnificent On My Own from Les Miserables sounds Spring Awakening (read: pop-rock) with Lea Michele singing.
The show is great. But I am more inclined to believe that it is Broadway brought to TV, which I don’t mind since I love musicals. It’s not another HSM. In fact, it’s more real in depicting the challenges of achieving one’s dreams, in continuing to believe in one’s self. And I love the soundtrack.