I don’t always watch you. I’ll admit that until last week’s episode, I hadn’t watched you all season. There are several reasons for this, from the unevenness of your writing to the fact that I sometimes wish that your adult characters actually did not exist. Another, though, (and my father is about to collapse from shock) is your myopic musical selection.
I defended you in the beginning. While my dad, a lifelong arts educator, was lamenting the relentlessly pop-oriented vocals and shallow musicality so often a part of “show choir” sensibility, I argued that anything that got teenagers excited about singing was to be placed staunchly in the “good” column. Even your over-produced, auto-tuned, obviously-dubbed performances were well-designed to appeal to audiences unaccustomed to the messier aesthetics of live singing. As long as your message was getting kids into music and revitalizing their schools’ performing arts programs, you were definitely doing your part.
That was then, this is now.
Here’s the thing, Glee. You’re a hit now. You’re a household name. You have the power of prime-time TV and you know how to use it. You’ve already used it, valiantly, to promote the awesomeness of your glee club “losers” in all their various, marvelous forms, and I applaud you for this, I really do. So why, Glee, why, with all that glorious power, have you neglected your characters’ real passion: music?
Kids love pop songs, it’s true. Nothing wrong with that. And they love “pop” musicals as well, or at least the theater kids do. I did, too, when I was a teen theater nerd, though my generation’s pop musical repertoire was limited to the likes of Marvin Hamlisch and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I sang “What I Did For Love” with all my teenaged heart and soul.
Here’s the thing about theater nerds, though, and this is what you’re ignoring… yeah, we love the latest cast album from the latest Broadway hit. But we also love the old stuff. The so-called “legit” stuff. The classics. And by “classics” I’m not talking Kander & Ebb. I’m talking Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Lerner & Lowe, Rodgers & Hart, Frank Loesser… do I need to go on? Maybe a little Sondheim, at the very least, if you’re not willing to go back too far.
Now before you make a fuss, let me finish. I know your cast isn’t necessarily trained for this. It’s not what you hired them for, and it may not be what they’re good at (though they are good at many, many things). I also know you can’t do this every week without risking alienating the audience you’ve built. But bear with me a moment here. It could work, I swear.
First of all, I’m not asking you to go obscure. You can hit the tunes that people know. You did it with “Tonight” on a small scale, right? Classic musicals are still in the public consciousness, so let’s just take it a little bit further. Take some well-known legit theater tunes and pretty ’em up in your lush, lush studio so your audience can experience just how beautiful they are. Bring on some new members or guests with youthful, pretty theater voices and let them sing their way into our hearts. Or better yet, explore the talent you have!
I’ve never heard Lea Michele sing outside of Glee and Spring Awakening, but in terms of pure vocal type, experience tells me that most women with a high belt/mix like she has are also high, light sopranos (Hi, Kristin Chenoweth), the very prettiest thing for winning people over to old-school musical theater. Given Michele’s natural vocal type and what I’ve seen of her theatrical resume, I’d guess you’ve got something lovely to work with. Give that girl some Julie Jordan or some Magnolia Hawks to play with, and see what she can do with it. And Chris Colfer? Come on, wouldn’t you just die to hear him sing, say, “Come to Me, Bend to Me?” Wouldn’t you?? Damn, I know I would. He’d sing it like an angel and act the hell out of it, too.
And please believe me, Glee. This isn’t a selfish request. Yeah, I’d definitely be wooed into more frequent viewing if I heard some classic showtunes on Glee, but honestly? It’s for your teens. As much fun as they’re having singing pop songs in their glee clubs, they don’t even know what it feels like to sing this stuff.
The delicious texture, the rich orchestration, the complexity of emotion woven in by the greatest masters of the craft, the sheer ecstasy of feeling your voice floating through it all… there’s nothing like it in the world. Nothing, I swear. I’m not being snobby, I’m just telling you, that feeling is like a DRUG. A glorious, LEGAL, consequence-free drug. These kids deserve to have that in their lives, and you have the power to give it to them.
So how about it, Glee?