The enthusiastic stars of TV’s Glee bring nearly two dozen of their signature pop hits, power ballads and Broadway showstoppers from the small screen to the big one in only 83 minutes. Their irresistibly entertaining performances were filmed at two June 2011 New Jersey concerts on the “Glee Live! In Concert!” tour of the US, Canada and the UK.
In both onstage and brief backstage segments, the acting/singing/dancing cast members appear in character as the high schoolers they portray on TV. Many of their New Directions show choir’s most “must hear” moments are featured, starting with the breakthrough episode-one duet “Don’t Stop Believin'” by on-and-off soulmates Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith). Other bring-down-the-housers include “River Deep, Mountain High” by Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana (Naya Rivera); Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” by Mercedes, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Kurt (Chris Colfer); and a trio of Katy Perry and Pink tunes by Warblers’ frontman Blaine (Darren Criss). The show’s sweetest moment is the innocent puppy-love duet “Lucky” by Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Sam (Chord Overstreet).
Interspersed with the concert footage are segments devoted to fans expressing their appreciation for the TV show’s embrace of ostracized outsiders. A gay teen who was humiliated in school, a “little person” who becomes a prom princess and a girl with Asperger’s syndrome relate how Glee has helped them accept themselves and appreciate others who are different.
Like the wide-ranging and genre-hopping TV series, the concert offers a diverse set list of tunes inspired by recordings and performances dating as far back as the ’60s. Rachel and Kurt respectfully recreate the 1963 Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand counterpoint duet “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy.” (Rachel’s outfit even evokes Streisand’s sailor-suit blouse from the original performance.) The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” released the same year, is performed solo by Kurt as a yearningly sincere torch song.
Representing other decades are two 1970s Queen hits (“Fat Bottomed Girls” by Mark Salling as the mohawked Puck and “Somebody to Love” by the entire cast); Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” and Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” from the 1980s, both performed by the wheelchair-rocking Artie (Kevin McHale); and no less than 11 21st century selections. Interestingly, there are no songs from the 1990s — although an excellent choice would have been Kurt’s rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from the musical Sunset Boulevard that was a highlight of Glee‘s second season.
Heather Morris is a treat as the amusingly dumb-blond Brittany. Her deadpan backstage remarks as the TV show’s cute but clueless ex-cheerleader are a crack-up. Her only solo is a sexy impersonation of Britney Spears doing “I’m a Slave 4 You” (except without a snake), but just try to keep your eyes off her even when she’s in the background of somebody else’s number. Morris was a professional dancer before joining the series, and it shows. She’s the most joyfully uninhibited and hyperactively energetic of all the multi-talented performers.
Gwyneth Paltrow, aka Glee substitute teacher Holly Holliday, does a great cameo performance of Cee Lo’s “Forget You.” She’s the TV show’s only over-30 cast member in evidence. Although New Directions mentor Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and nasty cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) made on-video appearances at the live concerts, those pre-recorded clips are not included here.
Some viewers may be frustrated by the frequent cutaways to segments about Glee‘s fans, but it’s impossible not to enjoy the happy and high-spirited feel-good performances by the show’s stars.