Glee blog review Episode 20: ‘Theatricality’

When has Glee NOT been about this episode’s titular Theatricality? But hey, I loved that as an episode theme, especially since it yielded two of the most sensational Glee performances this season: The girls’ (and “honorary girl” Kurt’s) Bad Romance, which vividly channeled Lady Gaga from the energized, hook-driven song to the wild costumes, and the boys’ Shout It Out Loud, a flashy, funny, swaggering and surprisingly assured rendition of KISS bombast.

Of course, also in the mix was emotional theatricality, as when Burt (still one of my favorite characters) pushed worthy sermonizing (about respecting his son’s sexuality) to the point of its own strident intolerance and kicked Finn out of the house without giving him a chance to apologize for saying an “f” word, or when Rachel and mama Shelby couldn’t get it together and maintain SOME form of relationship, simply because they didn’t meet until Rachel was a high school sophomore. Get over it — you’re blood relatives. Find a workable common ground and move on. Don’t give up without a fight just because you got a late start.

Still, I loved this show, including mother and daughter’s preposterously incredible impromptu performance of a fantastically reworked Poker Face, much like Gaga’s little-seen and heard acoustic version — but better. For me, this was one of the true vocal highlights of the season, in arrangement, leads, harmonies and sheer creativity.

Beth was by-the-numbers, but I do appreciate when the show choir members simply sit in chairs and sing. Then it’s all about the singing, not the showmanship — or theatricality, which this cast’s great singers don’t always need. And Shelby’s Funny Girl was another meaningful, stripped-bare performance where there’s no artifice, just remarkable singing chops.

It was odd not seeing Sue at all this episode, until the preview for next week’s Funk episode, but Glee has a big cast — can’t show ’em all each time. At least we had Figgins’ nutty panic over vampirism, and Tina’s exploitation of it. And BTW, what a great breakout song Bad Romance was for Santana. She’s gotten to sing before, but never like this. In an ensemble performance, she stood out — big time. And was that the first line of dialogue ever for jock-turned-Gleek Matt? It’s about time!

My only concern is that Glee gets so carried away with its sudden and overwhelming success that it resorts too often to the theatricality card, and neglects the staunch heart and quiet compassion which make this show so special. Anybody can showboat. Not everyone can do it and also show empathy and tenderness.

Then again, Finn’s rescue of Kurt vs. the unevolved bullies in the hallway — while in drag himself — showed that, sometimes, you can have both. KISS and Lady Gaga may not come to mind when you think about sensitivity, but Glee — even in its craziest moments — still does.

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