By David Goldberg
You’ve heard about it everywhere. Your friends follow it with cultish obsession. But unlike other pop-culture crazes that rule our country right now—like a certain soporific vampire saga involving depressed teenagers—Glee’s talent, creativity, and energy make it live up to the hype.
Glee’s formula is simple and addictive: a ragtag high school choir club filled with misfits and outcasts competes against other high schools for musical glory. Every week, the characters break out and sing spectacular covers that range from “Don’t Make Me Over” to “Bad Romance.” It’s like High School Musical, but, you know, watchable.
Even though most of the cast is young, this is certainly not an amateur hour. While Glee features incredible unknown musical talents, such as the divine Amber Riley, the show’s greatest feature is its lineup of Broadway powerhouses. Matthew Morrison (Hairspray, South Pacific) and Lea Michele (Spring Awakening) prove that they really can sing anything as lead characters Will Shuster and Rachel Berry. Guest appearances by Broadway icons such as Wicked divas Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel and Spring Awakening’s Jonathan Groff lead to musical numbers that had before only been the stuff of gay dreams. Michele and Menzel perform “I Dreamed a Dream” together in a moment that is truly unbelievable. It’s a Broadway Clash of the Titans.
Of course, no review of Glee is complete without mentioning its super-villain. As Sue Sylvester, the domineering cheerleading coach, out lesbian Jane Lynch steals every scene as a character that is ferocious, terrifying, and hysterical. Her sharp jabs and insults are just one example of the series’ superb writing.
Glee is not perfect. The unmanageably large cast and fast story pacing often leave character development and consistency behind. Characters fall in and out of love within hour-long installments, which can be confusing and unnerving. But these are kinks that can be worked out in the second season.
Thankfully, the show’s creators loaded the first season’s DVD with fantastic extras, such as behind-the-scenes footage of the “Power of Madonna” episode, as well as additional scenes with Sue Sylvester. And the karaoke sing-along feature takes re-watching to a whole new and gayer level.
Glee is a treasure. The sharp wit and sensational song-and-dance numbers make every episode unmissable and unforgettable. It may be best known for revitalizing Journey’s image, but Glee has done so much more. It’s redefined what’s possible in the modern musical.
Glee: The Complete First Season debuts September 14 on Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (foxconnect.com).
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.