"I don't want to see the spectacle that is Michael, I want to be the spectacle." And so goes the motto of GLEE giving Michael Jackson his musical due. Much like MJ brought together the worlds or pop and R&B and broke down racial barriers through his music and message, GLEE set the stage by placing our favorite gleeks in a battle with the Warblers - not unlike the Sharks vs. Jets of the recent WEST SIDE STORY tribute. And it was quite a sight to see - and hear. Like the memorable Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Fleetwood Mac tributes before it, last night's "Michael" episode of GLEE was the realization of a life-long dream for many gleeks in the audience and the epic convergence of two pop culture dynasties. Series creator and show musical sequence mastermind Ryan Murphy penned the episode himself and the razor sharp dialogue was as biting and bizarre as always - in a good way. A very good way. And, the musical numbers? Even better. Filled with fun facts relating to the man in the mirror being honored and with more musical numbers than one could envision even fitting into an hour of network TV with story, too - and what plot developments - once again, GLEE made us remember that this is our very own spot in the entertainment universe, right at corner of Hollywood and Broadway. The joy that standing on that corner can make us all feel through sheer osmosis is transcendentally exciting, and, even more than that, exquisitely exciting. My, oh my - how we have missed thee, GLEE! True, it's only been a few weeks, but Season Three has been so consistently strong as to make each and every episode unmissable thus far and each pause positively interminable. After all, in just the last episode alone we were left with three marriage proposals! No more scattershot scenarios ala Season Two or heavy focus on the adults like Season One, Season Three is all about the cast of characters that comprise New Directions - and, Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, thank goodness that is the main subject being taught at McKinley High this semester. "Bad" to "Ben" to "Black Or White"; "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Smooth Criminal", "Scream" and more, GLEE's MJ tribute was a true OMGLEE moment.
Help Me Sing It
"I was the only one standing in the way of myself," Quinn says after she announces her plans to attend Yale in the Fall, and, I suppose, the same could have been said of the life and career of Michael Jackson. The tragedy surrounding his death and the strange mystery surrounding his later career are seemingly impenetrable topics, yet his early work and collective musical catalog is among the most impressive in all of pop music from the last fifty years. All of the 20th century, for that matter. As with many creative artists - let alone, most musical geniuses - talent has its downfalls, and, sad to say, fate took Michael Jackson too soon from this world, but, thanks to expressive and imaginative reworkings of his musical output in the form of shows like Cirque du Soleil's IMMORTAL world tour, and, now, GLEE's "Michael" episode, his music and memory may live on for many, many more generations to come. Even though he is no longer here with us, we can still sing his songs - and sing thEm Loud and proud and strong. Respect was certainly paid to MJ's music and iconic imagery last night - Jackson 5 through to the glittery glove and Janet collaboration "Scream"; the latter complete with shot-for-shot video remake, as were significant portions of "Bad" and "Black Or White". As with many such tribute episodes on GLEE in seasons past, this episode allowed many of the supporting players a chance to have center-stage in new and surprising ways, as well - above all else, through, the glee club, collectively, was the star of the show. Or, should I say: glee clubs.
Going song-by-song through the packed-to-the-rafters return ep, the show started off as if shot out of a cannon, given a brilliantly played start by the show's most surefire fire-starter of all, Broadway's new hot topic, Darren Criss. Surely if you follow BroadwayWorld you are aware that Criss has had a three-week-long stint on the Great White Way in the interim between the last episode and last night's hotly anticipated return, playing the lead in Frank Loesser's Pulitzer Prize-winning HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. While the tragic slushie incident was surely by no means merely a convenient plot contrivance in order to allow Criss a way to take a leave for a few episodes (much as Matt Morrison was allowed some time to focus on his solo album for a stint before), Kurt and Rachel's friendship on the line over college plans and her conundrum over Finn's proposal is enough to keep Kurt busy enough in the interim, at the very least. Plus, next week we shall see the debut of a whole new special guest leading player portrayed by pop superstar Ricky Martin. Also, the debut of the GLEE PROJECT winner, Samuel Larsen, looms on the horizon, so the absence of Criss for a few weeks shall allow for some new and different stars to shine as Season Three enters its final 10 shows of the season.
Pat Cerasaro is a playwright and screenwriter currently in pre-production on his first feature film.|