The screaming started before the show even began. The reason? An ad pushing the Glee app (as if NewsFeed doesn’t already consult it 24/7). Welcome to Glee in London.
Gleeks inhabit both sides of the Atlantic, you know. And so, following last year’s successful tour of American venues, the hit show bowed to pressure and embarked on its first-ever European excursion. And their decision is already a winner: The demand was so strong that extra dates had to be added to this U.K and Ireland invasion. But would the Brits lower those stiff upper lips for Rachel? And would they go (Lady) Gaga for Kurt? As if these questions even needed to be asked!
The entire gang showed up, save for Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison, too busy working on his own material) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch, who is surely above such diversions). Even those missing members contributed via video vignettes (however admirable they were — because of the piercing screams from the audience, we could barely make them out).
And when a similar sound issue seemed to affect the opening number, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” we feared for Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Kurt (Chris Colfer), Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Artie (Kevin McHale). But by the time they’ve been joined on stage by Brittany (Heather Morris), Santana (Naya Rivera), Puck (Mark Salling), Mike (Harry Shum Jr), Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Lauren (Ashley Fink), any problems were ironed out with Finn and Rachel (it’s far easier to suspend disbelief and actually refer to them by character name), reminding the thousands why they instantly fell in love with Glee from episode one.
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From here on in, we were taken on a journey (lower case), with Mercedes nailing “Ain’t No Way,” Kurt cleverly playing to the home crowd with The Beatles’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and Puck serenading Lauren to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” He easily got the loudest cheer of the day, which was unfortunately contrasted with Lauren barely being acknowledged whenever she appeared. As for Brittany, her homage to her namesake on “I’m A Slave 4 U” was almost too good, posing the profound question: If the fictional Brit sings and dances better than the real one, why do we even need Ms. Spears?
What’s more, it seems strange to suggest that there are plot spoilers but, if you’re so inclined, look away now, because the introduction of The Warblers took most of the O2 Arena by surprise. Of course, Blaine (Darren Criss) took charge as they belted out the likes of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Perry is an obvious reference point for the room (both for those on and off stage) and Rachel’s rendition of “Firework” later in the show is startlingly on point.
By the time the entire cast took on and very nearly defeated Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” we were left to conclude that this might just be the definitive pop-culture mashup of the millennium thus far, and we’re not even halfway through. If anything, the production values were so slick that it was simply exhausting (quite literally for many of the under-fives seated near NewsFeed, who were either reduced to tears or placing their hands over their ears due to the noise).
And when Kurt and Brittany manically danced off to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” at the start of the encore, we wondered how that would be topped. Sensibly, it was reined in with an almost laid-back version of Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind,” which allowed the various vocals on show to soar before, as they say, the house was brought down with Queen’s “Somebody To Love.”
Everyone involved in this Glee behemoth has very much caught the zeitgeist, perhaps acutely aware that with showbiz being such a fickle beast, it’s best to make hay while the sun shines. Indeed, creator Ryan Murphy has confirmed that some of the cast will be graduating at the end of the next season, which is a cute way of saying he’s killing off characters. And it means that these live shows won’t be around in this form for much longer. School will soon be out for summer. But not yet.