Glee returned to television earlier this month after a four-month hiatus, finally offering some answers to the questions that have been on fans' minds since December.
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of musical theater buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Jessica Reiner-Harris—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
They weigh in on this week's show, which offered intriguing plot twists and two memorable musical numbers:
Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): After last week's jukebox episode, where a paper-thin plot strung together Madonna songs, this week's episode was plot-heavy! Each time a song began, I was so entranced by storyline that I welcomed the music wholeheartedly.
When I heard the opening chords of "Beautiful," I was awaiting to be showered with cliche. However, Mercedes and her peers coming to terms with who they are was moving. "A House is Not A Home" is the best we've ever heard from Kurt. He is so charged by his affections for Finn and his frustrations with his family that all he can do is sing about it. That's what makes a good musical number. If there's no build-up to a song, then no one will care that anybody is singing. This is the problem with jukebox musicals. I'm glad that the good people at Glee have found their way back to the light.
Jessica Reiner-Harris (member of the touring improv comedy troupe The Striking Viking Story Pirates): A house is not a home, but Kurt's voice is a soft, cozy easy chair. With paisley print. His number was the one of the most lovely performances of the night, and it had musical theatre written all over it. With the exception of the contrived introduction (the glee club can't use the auditorium, so Kurt feels the need to encourage the troops with a song about home being where the heart is), Kurt's feelings for Finn and the sweet lyrics combined to make a meaningful, gorgeous, and still appropriately tongue-in-cheek musical number.
And I would be very remiss in not mentioning the glory that is Kristin Chenoweth. In all she does, in all she says, and especially in all she sings, she embodies the larger-than-life but intensely heartfelt style that is musical theatre. Her mere presence heightens the talent quota and entertainment factor of the show ten-fold. "Beautiful" was also gorgeous and heartfelt. The realistic issues of loneliness after a separation or death (of a spouse or parent, respectively) and feeling beautiful in the face of outside pressure made this episode much deeper and more satisfying than usual, and I think the musical numbers benefited from the shift.
Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): The idea that Mercedes and Quinn bond over body issues is almost offensive. That's, what, the one thing all women have in common? Feeling chubby? Starving themselves until they faint? I'd rather see them bond because Mercedes found out she was pregnant. Or because they both took piano lessons as children. Or something. Anything. (Also: Really? We REALLY had to give Quinn body issues? We couldn't just let her be hot and bitchy and occasionally thrillingly smart and have that be the end of it? BECAUSE EVERY PRETTY GIRL SECRETLY HATES HER TUMMY, RIGHT?)
But then Mercedes sang "Beautiful", and my many, many reservations about this week's episode disappeared into the ether and I got all gooey as the gym turned into a gigantic, predictable love-fest. The song was an example of why Glee works so well (when it's working well). Who cares about the plot? Who cares about realism, or motivation, or dramatic consequences? I show up every week for the two or three moments that make me want to sing.
Past Glee panels: