Glee cast delights devoted fans with live performance

A review of Glee – Live! In Concert! at the TD Garden on June 7, 2011

, Contributing Writer

The students of Fox TV’s McKinley High took the stage in “Glee Live!” Tuesday night at the TD Garden after a one night delay due to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup game.  Although it lacked the actual physical presence of both teachers, the evil coach Sue Sylvester (Jan Lynch) and the club’s leader Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison, who is out promoting his own solo career), the 80-minute performance did not disappoint the capacity crowd of Gleeks who packed the Garden.

In the live setting, Glee remained true to many of the elements of the TV series, keeping all the actors in character and adding hints of dialogue and set design here and there to remind viewers of what scene each song was from originally. This was made evident from the first number, Glee’s famous cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, which began with the original six cast members who sang the song and introduced each of the additions to the Glee Club. Smoke and pyro both spot from the stage during the opening number, giving just a hint as to what was to come (plus fire, confetti “slushies” and even fireworks during Lea Michele’s cover of Katy Perry’s song by the same name).

As the show progressed, the cast of Glee delivered a set filled of classics from the two-year old show, from power ballads to energetic anthems, classics to contemporary pop hits.  Vocally, some Glee members impressed much more than their pears. Most notably was Lea Michele (Rachel Berry), who shined brightly as expected. Others, notably Heather Morris (Brittany Pierce) and Harry Shun Jr. (Mike Chang), excelled more during the choreographed dance routines. Unfortunately, Morris was forced to lip-synch her way through Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U” (although truth be told, it fit the number, as Spears herself lip-synchs).

The true stars of the night were minor characters on the show whose vocal ability soared over the crowd. Amber Riley’s character Mercedes Jones is known on the show for her range and holds, but live everything Riley can do is made a thousand times more obvious. Riley’s voice stole the show with a powerful solo in Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” which was delivered from smaller b-stage about two-thirds of the way into the crowd with a gospel choir on the floor providing backup to her duet with Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez).

Rivera herself was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night.  Just days after the announcement of her solo album record deal, Rivera wowed as she preformed Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”. Not only did her voice soar, Rivera impressed with the shear energy of her performance.

Midway through the show, the McKinley Glee club took a break and handed over the mics to their rival competition, The Warblers. Led by Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson), the all-male group appeared to have more devoted fans in the audience than any one of the other Glee stars. While the stiffly choreographed dance moves of the Warblers were nothing special, Criss brought life to the group as he led the crowd in singing along and had every fist in the air for Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.”

Other highlights from the main set included Lea Michele’s soaring rendition of “Fireworks”, Mark Salling (Noah “Puck” Puckerman) serenading Ashley Fink (Lauren Zizes) threw the crowd and several quieter duets including a mash-up of the Streisand and Garland classics “Happy Days Are Here Again” and”Get Happy” by Michele and Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel). Colfer also made one of the only comments of the night referencing Boston, professing his love for the place “so dedicated to style” that it named its baseball team after it.

The main set ended with a rousing rendition of one of the show’s original songs, “Loser Like Me” before the cast returned for a five-song encore that featured everything from an a “Glee-Unplugged” rendition of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to the closer, Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”

While the show featured more than a few costume changes, trips through the crowd, special effects and spotlights for each cast member, one thing was sorely lacking: emotion. To watch Kevin McHale’s character Artie Abrams stand up during Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” or see Lea Michele and her character’s love interest played by Cory Monteith, Finn Hudson, sing a duet lacked any real feeling. All the actors looked happy and energetic, but truth be told, “Glee” would not be a hit if it didn’t pull on the emotional strings of those watching. This fact did not, however, seem to upset any of the many costumed attendees, who screamed as loud as they could for as long as their vocal chords held out. For them, nothing could ruin the night, not even a certain unnamed cast member’s call of “Go Canucks” as the lights went down. For them, this night was everything they could have wished for and so much more.

Opening the show was the former dance crew of “Glee” actor Harry Shun Jr., the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.

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