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November 9, 2011

A 'Glee' episode to cherish for lots of reasons

OK, get your sniggering out of the way now. Yes, I am a Gleek who looks forward to every episode of "Glee," even after sitting through the so-so and repetitive ones.

And what I saw last night reconfirmed my belief that this is an inspired and inspiring show.

I know that some folks think just the opposite. I read one devastating put down in a UK paper last season that made me almost hate "Glee" too -- until I came to my senses. Come on, this is not just another TV show.

It manages to cram in so many issues of teen angst, so many points of view about politics, sociology, sexuality and community -- all to a soundtrack of great songs (all right, mostly great). And for those of us who still carry around baggage from our younger years, especially concerning our orientation, "Glee" provides an amazing uplift.

We see the same old bullying, the same old stupidity, from kids and adults alike, in this show, but we also see ...

a lot of triumphs in the lives of these characters -- a perfect verbal comeback from Kurt; a dizzying, parent-defying dance routine from Mike; full-throttle diva turns by Rachel or Mercedes; a dollop of common sense from Kurt's dad.

Anyway, back to this week's episode, which drove home some great points, one of them unintentional.

In the excerpts from "West Side Story" woven into the plot, Lea Michele proved again why she would have made a highly credible Fanny Brice in the "Funny Girl" revival that has just been scrapped (come on -- did you really buy the Lauren Ambrose angle?).

Not saying that said revival would not still have been sunk by nervous investors and a shaky economy. But I am saying Michele clearly has the chops and, I imagine, the following to make her bankable on Broadway.

I thought that all of the "West Side Story" passages clicked in this "Glee" entry because they were truly, engagingly sung. The brilliance of Bernstein's music seemed to catch hold with the cast, seemed to mean something to them -- a welcome affirmation of a 50-year-old musical.

Yes, I know about vocal enhancers, but I don't think these performances, especially the exquisitely molded "One Hand, One Heart" duet between Michele and Darren Criss as Blaine, needed any electronics.

In the end, what deeply impressed and touched me the most about this episode was the way it allowed the relationship between Kurt  (the first-rate Chris Colfer) and Blaine to blossom in what seemed a very natural progression.

My partner and I -- we're far from ancient, but we did live through a very different time -- never expected to see gay characters depicted so sensibly and, more importantly, so romantically on a commercial TV series. "Glee" has pushed the envelope way off the table.

It's not just the discreet kisses, but the look in their eyes that is at once unapologetic, hopeful, tender and afraid (can anyone, anything this wonderful really last?).

There are so many fun plot lines intersecting in "Glee," heightened this season by Sue Sylvester's scary run for Congress. I look forward to seeing how all of them develop. But if I never saw another episode, I'd feel content knowing that I got to witness Kurt and Blaine get so much closer, and to hear so much potent singing from everyone along the way.

I realize that there is bound to be a backlash because of the teen sex in this episode (so tastefully suggested that some folks could have missed it completely). Get over it. This stuff happens. What really came through last night, more than anything else, was that simple little concept called love.


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:41 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens


Amen from a fellow unapologetic Gleek. My favorite moment was when Kurt told Blaine "You take my breath away". It was totally sincere and faithful to the character. Kudos also to Dot Marie Jones as Coach Bieste.

Thanks for mentioning the Coach. I should have included her. She really is fabulous and was given such a fine opportunity to shine in this episode. TIM

I enjoy the breadth of topics in these pages, high brow opera one day and commercial teen drama the next. Looking forward to seeing this episode. Wasn't Bert Hummel's campaign speech in support of arts in education great? Rather impressed also with the voice of the new Irish character.

That pro-arts speech sure was terrific. I wish we had actual candidates espousing that such sentiments. (And I'm glad you don't mind my gear-switching on this blog.) TIM

My name is Dahlink and I am a Gleek, too. (All: "Hello, Dahlink!")

I really think that parents of teens should be watching this show with their children--they will have a LOT to talk about afterwards. The scene where Rachel calls the meeting about whether to have sex with Finn covered lots of points of view. For those who think the show celebrates sex, think about what Quinn had to say (having been there, done that, had a baby ...). She says she lost something she can never get back, and I think there are many ways to construe this statement. And I loved the scene in the gay bar where Kurt finds himself sitting next to his former tormentor. They have both come a long way. How many bullies out there are acting out of fear?

Thanks awfully, Dahlink. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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