Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Glee The Concert, on Blu-ray and DVD, great for those missing Glee this week

     It is no secret to fans of FOX's Glee that the cast of the beloved series does a concert tour every spring, at the completion of filming the TV show. Last year's concert was packaged into a film, released in theaters in 3-D. Most people don't own 3-D televisions, but the special is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and the set comes with a digital copy, so it can at least be partially experienced on a variety of platforms. With Glee taking a break tonight, now seems like the perfect opportunity to take a look at this must-have for all true gleeks.

     Glee The Concert is about eighty minutes in length, showcasing many musical numbers on stage, mixed in with backstage interviews and inspiring stories of Glee fans. Recorded during a live show in East Rutherford, New Jersey, it is clear from the beginning that Glee The Concert does not present an entire concert. Hints of witty banter to bridge songs are seen, but not much. Which is a shame. The small parts that are shown fit more into the spirit of what the live show must be than the packaged profiles and interviews. While it's fun to get a little backstage look at some of the stars, many of whom stay in character, it's also disappointing to be robbed of the full experience. Transitions make sense, but it feels like there's something missing. Not to mention, given the film's short running time, there are probably songs cut out.

     The three teenagers that tell their stories in between the songs of Glee The Concert are moving stories full of optimism and accepting people for who they are. Which is exactly the theme of Glee. There is a gay guy (of course), a girl with Asperger's, and a popular cheerleader who happens to be a dwarf, and is eventually crowned Prom Princess. For those not inspired by the regular Glee show, or American Idol profiles, these come across as cheesy and unnecessary. For those gleeks caught up totally in the mania surrounding the show, and think that a simple television program impacts their lives in deep ways, it's a treat to eat up. As such, opinion will be divided on the value of including these features, and both sides have valid arguments. It's a 'love it or hate it' situation.

     Many of the songs performed in Glee The Concert are favorites from the show. The movie, predictably, opens with a welcome performance of "Don't Stop Believin'." Also included are "Empire State of Mind," "Born This Way," and "Loser Like Me," all of which are big group numbers that succeed wonderfully. If one stays past the first couple minutes of ending credits, one is rewarded with "Somebody to Love."

     Most of the major characters are featured in solo or duet performances. Brittany's (Heather Morris) "I'm a Slave 4 U" is a great fit that really pumps up the crowd and showcases her dancing and body. Those missing Zizes (Ashley Fink) this season, this reviewer definitely among them, will love Puck (Mark Salling) wooing her with "Fat Bottomed Girls." Rachel (Lea Michele) busts out her "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "Firework," both stunning performances. Finn (Cory Monteith) shines in "Jesse's Girl." Artie (Kevin McHale) gets to ditch his chair and groove out to "Safety Dance." Kurt (Chris Colfer) fans will swoon to his soulful "I Want to Hold Your Hand," still a highlight of the second season. Substitute teacher Holly Holiday (Gwyneth Paltrow, the sole adult appearing) even pops up to belt out "Forget You."

     Those who prefer more than one singer will not be disappointed. Kurt and Rachel duet "Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy," while Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana (Naya Rivera) slay "River Deep - Mountain High," as only they can. And, to the delight of girls everywhere, Blaine (Darren Criss) leads the Warblers in a trio of songs comprising a short set in the middle of the film. In fact, a highlight of Glee The Concert is a young boy dressed as Blaine performing in front of his TV, which is revisited in the ending credits. In short, Glee The Concert makes some great musical choices, and they are extremely well performed, as fans would expect them to be. Energy is high, and no lip synching is evident.

     That being said, there are a couple of issues. For one thing, Artie performs too much. Sure, he gets "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" more as a way to highlight Mike Chang's (Harry Shum Jr.) dance moves, but it's still McHale singing. It's not disappointing that Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is not featured, but Quinn (Dianna Agron) deserved her own song, rather than being reduced to a duet of "Lucky" with Sam (Chord Overstreet), as great at that number is. However, those are small complaints in the overall picture.

     Glee The Concert comes with a handful of special features. Two songs not appearing in the film, "Dog Days Are Over" and "Friday," are included, as well as extended versions of "Ain't No Way" and "Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy." Which is beneficial, because both numbers seem short in the picture. "On Stage With the Cast" provides a couple of cameos by Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) that probably should not have been cut, as well as a wonderful proposal between Kurt and Blaine that hints a major season three development to the audience. "Backstage With the Cast" is what you would expect, a few minutes of speaking with the performers behind the scenes. Shazam also provides content to a mobile device, if one is tech savvy and wants even more content.
     Glee The Concert will not replace the show, but it's a nice companion, and revisits some favorite musical numbers. Buy your copy on Blu-ray or DVD today.

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