Glee recap: Listen to the (Happy) Critics

Rachel plays the lead in tonight's Broadway-centric Funny Girl episode, sharing the spotlight only slightly with a confusing return to Lima
Ep. 17 | Aired Apr 22, 2014

Tyler Golden/Fox

I know that all of the Funny Girl staging was oversimplified and isolated, not very representative of a big Broadway musical; maybe that was too much of a stretch. But for performance purposes, I enjoyed the simplicity. It gave us excellent scenes like this: a continuous close-crop shot of Rachel in her Fanny Brice wig, dressed in that Scene I sailor dress, making her way from her dressing room, through the extras backstage, to her first mark, the sounds of the orchestra warming up slowly fading into her heartbeat as she gets closer and closer to accomplishing the only dream she’s ever had. The curtain rises, and she’s just a girl on stage, opening her mouth, and absolutely slaying "I’m the Greatest Star." Suddenly, without much activity, we're supposed to be right in the middle of a Broadway show. But the minimalism makes sense. We’re seeing these numbers more from Rachel’s  perspective than from her audience's point of view. She’s spent her whole day dreading this moment, her whole life looking forward to it, and now here she is...just doing it. Dreams are only dreams until you achieve them -- they’re much simpler after that.

Kurt and Mercedes check on Rachel during intermission to let her know she’s killing it. She’s nervous as her producer comes into check on her too, and while he also thinks she’s doing a great job, he’s a little concerned that Sue ("that man") stepping over The New York Times critic on her way to leave the show could reflect negatively in their review. Not a particularly encouraging thought for your lead actress, but he reminds Rachel that "critics remember beginnings and endings." So, with the beginning threatened, it’s time to seal this deal up.

Simultaneously, there is a scene of Sue and Mario flirting with each other, and while I thought the two had perfectly good (re: Sue-level-nutjob) chemistry, I remind you of this scene only to explain why "Who Are You Now" was sung as a duet with Rachel and Sue. I was certainly not expecting that. It bothered me on a fundamental, "I’m still not getting this" level, but they actually sounded nice together. I appreciated the supportive vocal more at the end, though, when we could still hear Jane Lynch's voice but also focus on Rachel’s performance -- remembering that this was the song she was nervous about as tears stream down her face, and a memory of Finn flashes through her mind and on our screens. Like most of the Funny Girl performance, it was understated: a suggestion of emotion, rather than an insistence that we feel exactly what Rachel is feeling in the biggest moment of her life. A (for both Funny Girl performances)

After the show, the producer returns to congratulate Rachel and tell her that all they can do is wait until the all-powerful New York Times review comes out in eight hours. Rachel decides she's going out with her trusty Lima friends, and Blaine knows just the giant, not-packed gay bar in Greenwich Village. At this bar, everyone knows who Rachel is because they’ve been "tracking Funny Girl for weeks." I stand by my most of this episode is told from from Rachel’s perspective how else would any of this be possible theory. They insist on a song, and the former McKinley crew immediately breaks into planned choreography and synchronized whistling (so you know I’m in) as "Pumpin Blood" by NONONO starts playing. It is a full-fledged party: dancing on tables, slow-mo shots, Kurt finally letting loose, a giant swing…what more could you need? A-

Finally, it’s time for Rachel to return home to meet her Broadway maker and face the New York Times review. Everyone goes with her to the newsstand and as they pass the review around, reading it aloud between themselves, each line proves more positive than the next. Love it or hate it, the Rachel Is a Huge Broadway Star cookie has crumbled, and she has come out way on top...for now. Mr. Shue calls to hear about the performance and tells everyone that his son has been born, named Daniel Finn Schuester. There’s an quiet beat where everyone takes in the baby’s middle name, followed up by declarations of happiness all around, and a bunch of college kids screaming "I LOVE YOU!" to their high school choir teacher. All is exactly as weird as usual in new Glee world.

Am I alone in thinking this Funny Girl episode was (mostly) a Glee win? Was it way too much Rachel for you? Too much Sue? Too much dream sequence and not enough Broadway production value? Oh, and was that gay bar full of Broadway-tracking fans scene a reference I'm unaware of? Please do share!

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