Hannah McIlveen is a freelance graphic designer and TV-obsessed writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. She grew up riding horses and reading Roald Dahl books, got an art degree, and then spent the next several years moving around the country and watching television. Her greatest goals in life are to write good stuff, produce a web series, build a house with her husband, and have six cats at once. Hannah has contributed to BitchMagazine.org and is a staff blogger for the soon-to-launch TeenSized.com. She also writes her own daily blog, Click Watch Write. Hannah can be accosted on Twitter @ClickWatchWrite.
GLEE: Top 5 Showtunes
I have an admission to make: I’m a bit of a musical traditionalist. I prefer guitars to keytars, pianos to synths, and Les Miserables to Lady Gaga. My desire to live in the musical past often threatens my ability to enjoy Glee; though it’s one of my favourite shows on the air right now, it sure does revel in pop music on the regular. So, grump that I am, I grit my teeth through the Madonna and Britney episodes, knowing that eventually they will do one of my all-time most-loved numbers – the showtunes.
I’m not picky. Chicago, West Side Story, Funny Girl; as long as it’s sung with the chutzpa necessary to support the theatricality of the song, I’m down to sing along. Below are my top picks for Glee’s stick-in-your-head-like-a-gooey-peanut-butter-sandwich, belt-it-out-like-no-one’s-listening showtunes. Add your own faves in the comments! (And feel free to yell at me for hating on Britney and Madonna.)
“Le Jazz Hot” from Victor/Victoria, performed by Kurt (Chris Colfer)
When Kurt performed this showtune in season two, he managed to make it more complex than just an homage to a great musical number. The dual personality spectacle he mounted in the auditorium was about sexuality, the marriage of femininity and masculinity, and what it means to be an ambitious performer. He was unafraid to do something unexpected and a bit weird, and it paid off. Unlike some of the other picks on this list that were more stripped down, Kurt’s performance of this tune was granted all the pomp and circumstance of the original, making it just as fun as it was complex.
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, performed by Rachel (Lea Michele)
It’s even more fun to look back on Rachel’s early performance of this iconic showtune now that Santana had her go at it in a recent episode. I thought Santana’s Latin spin on the song was fun, but I’m in the Rachel camp on this one – I am a musical traditionalist, after all. But really, it comes down to attitude. Santana took the song in a direction of more hip-swaying, finger-snapping, aloof confidence, while Rachel’s interpretation was more innocent and cautious in its confidence, which made it feel more faithful to the original. Completely personal and subjective preference? Definitely. But just watch that clip and tell me you don’t feel her contagious, delicate optimism.
“Defying Gravity” from Wicked, performed by Kurt and Rachel (Chris Colfer and Lea Michele)
This is a beautiful song that served as a perfect framework for Kurt’s ambition, his inevitable failure, and his strengthening bond with his father. The song is about reaching for something you’re not sure you can achieve, and Kurt’s doing just that – he’s not sure if he can hit the high note, but he’s trying; not sure he can survive high school, but he’s trying; not sure if he can be a star, but he’s trying; not sure if he can have an open, trusting relationship with Burt, but he’s trying. It’s admirable and touching. And though Kurt doesn’t make the high note, this performance still feels like an accomplishment.
“America” from West Side Story, performed by Santana and New Directions (Naya Rivera)
This number is just pure fun. Not only is it one of theatre’s catchiest tunes, but add in New Directions’ horrible accents and Santana’s charisma, and you’ve got one of Glee’s most irresistible performances. Will I get hate mail from musical nerds if I say Santana’s performance here rivals Rita Moreno’s in the original 1961 film version of West Side? Hate mail be damned, I’m saying it – Santana nailed it.
“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, performed by Mercedes
As with Kurt and “Defying Gravity”, this is another example of when Glee had their song selection on lockdown. “And I’m Telling You” perfectly sums up what’s happening in Mercedes’s life at the time she sings it. She’s battling with Rachel and the rest of the Glee Club for attention and she’s refusing to back down from an opportunity she knows she deserves. Even Rachel can’t not smile at Mercedes’s virtuosity, which is all the more impressive given the bare-bones set-up. It’s just Mercedes and the band, but they rock it like they’re on Broadway.
What are your favourite Glee showtune cover? And more importantly, what are your opinions on Madonna…?