Getting Gleeful

Glee kicks off its second season tonight and I still can't decide whether or not I like it. On the one hand, those kids are ridiculously talented, and great with the big showstoppers. On the other hand... it's a serious cheese-fest.

To help me decide whether to tune in for the season premiere, I talked with an old high school friend of mine, with whom I share humble Glee club roots myself. She's since returned to our alma mater and become a choir director in our old music program. I asked her about Glee's impact on high school kids, her own favorite Gleek moments, and the danger of unsupervised Jazz Hands.

Ok, Ms. V. Let's cut right to it. You're a show choir survivor who later became a choir director at our old high school. That's gotta be a little trippy.
The kids definitely love to laugh at me in rehearsals sometimes. I can't help but talk about how we did choir "back when I was in high school" – girls in sequined dresses, boys in silver jackets, and a lot of BIG hair. But at the time, we thought we were sooooo cool.

That's because we WERE so cool, duh. Did you watch Glee last year?
I did. I DVRed it and watched some of the musical numbers several times.

What did you think of the Glee-ified versions of all those songs?
Some were a little obnoxious. But as a teacher, I was really inspired by the talent in the cast, and how incredible some of those numbers were. Especially the show choir performances, right down to the choreography.

What were your favorite moments from last season?
I loved the episode where Artie (Kevin McHale) gets up out of his wheelchair and performs "Safety Dance" at the mall with that amazing choreography. Also the "Defying Gravity" sing-off between Rachel and Kurt. All of Kristin Chenowyth's guest-starring scenes. Love her. And the big choir competition in the season finale, of course. Plus the teacher?

Mr. Shuster?

Duly noted. What did your students think of Glee? Cool or lame?
A lot of them loved it. Some hated it, of course. They said it was cheesy and poorly written. But even so, there wasn't a Wednesday morning last year when kids didn't come in quoting lines from the night before.

And their vote for best line of the season?
"Dolphins are gay sharks."

Do any of your students relate to the characters on the show?
They don’t feel like it's the story of their lives or anything; then again, a former student of mine sent me a Facebook message after watching the episode where Kurt came out of the closet, telling me that he'd finally come out himself in college. He connected to that episode, big time. It brought him to tears.

Sounds like you had your own Kurt.
And my own Finn, sort of. We had two soloists last year who were athletes. One was a football star, and he quit the team this year because he wants to be in the musical. We're doing Les Miserables.

I have to believe you have your fair share of Rachels every year, right?
I do get some divas, but you know what? Girls have it tougher than boys in arts programs. There are a lot more girls, and the competition is greater. They have to work so much harder, and the disappointments can be so much greater. The best way to handle them is with a lot of honesty and encouragement. What happens if you don't get that solo or role you want? Do you go all diva? Do you have a tantrum? Or do you find a better way? That's just as important as helping them become better singers.

So do you think the show is influencing what high school choirs across the country are going to be performing this year? Should audiences expect bigger numbers? More Jazz Hands?
I can tell you that our talent show last year featured "Don't Stop Believing." And one of our choirs here will be doing Queen's "Somebody to Love" this year. Those were both big Glee numbers. No Jazz Hands, though, sorry.

Do those songs go over well?
Absolutely. The kids love them, and the audience love them even more. "Don't Stop Believing" actually grabbed a whole bunch of new kids last year that probably hadn't paid much attention to choir before.

Do you think Glee has made show choir cool again?
In some parts of the country, it was always cool! At some high schools, especially in the Midwest, the kids go all out for choir. I went to a choral directors association conference in Kansas city a few years ago, and the nighttime entertainment for the event was one of the top local high school show choirs. I had never seen anything like it. I watched this choir perform, and it was amazing and scary. The kids had ten costume changes in one show, and a ten-piece professional band behind them. Every girl had the same fake eyelashes, the same hair style, and every one of them stood in the exact same posture. At one point, they broke out with these huge headdresses and feathered fans. If nothing else, their precision was amazing.

I have to admit, I wouldn't have predicted how popular the show became last year. What do you think made it such a hit?
Come on -- hasn't everybody stood in front of the mirror and rocked out with a hairbrush microphone? I think everyone has that fantasy of being a performer. Especially of being the underdog who walks out on stage in front of a tough audience, and blows everybody away. I think the show lets us believe in that, the idea that we could hit that note if we just stood up, stopped being self-conscious, and tried.

Alright, I'm in. I'll keep watching. Thanks to Janice Vlachos, director extraordinaire at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. And to all you kids in jazz and show choirs everywhere: knock 'em dead this year.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...