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Concert Reviews:
"Glee" comes alive at the Palace

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, June 13, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- They call it Glee Live! In Concert! But the stage complement to the popular Fox TV series would be better titled On Stage!, as the 70-minute production was more a revue than a performance -- which is actually a good thing.

In fact, on Monday night (June 13) at the Palace, Glee Live! was nothing less than enormously entertaining, an energetic, feel-good exposition designed to please the show's fan base of Gleeks -- an all-ages 14,000 of whom made for an early-week sell-out. Shorn of the dialogue and angsty plot points that are edgy for an 8 p.m. show, the stage edition of "Glee" was a super-sized episode of the show, offering nothing but the music in a glitzy, elaborately staged and pyrotechnics-aided package that was so family-friendly it even let out while there was still light in the evening sky.

For the Gleeks, of course, there was obviously the thrill of seeing the youthful cast of McKinley High's New Directions glee club (adults like Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch appear only via video) in the flesh -- and all over the arena, whether performing on a second stage towards the rear of the Palace floor or romping through the aisle as a guitar-toting Mark Sailing (Puck) did during Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," with the rival Warblers following suit during Wings' "Silly Love Songs," the second of their three-song set. Those with less emotional ties to the show, meanwhile, were at least sucked in by its brisk and tightly choreographed pacing, as well as a parade of proven hits and slick song-and-dance routines.

Range, in fact, was Glee Live!'s strong suit, stretching from standards (a "Happy Days Are Here Again"/"Get Happy" coupling sung by Lea Michele (Rachel) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) on the B stage) to current favorites (Florence & the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over," Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," My Chemical Romance's "Sing" and "Glee's" own "Loser Like Me"). Colfer was the show-stealer, dipping into the 60s for an aching, torchy version of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and campily re-enacting the video for Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" with castmates Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) and Heather Morris (Britney).

Kevin McHale, who plays paraplegic Artie Abrams, also stood out, performing Michael Jackons' "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" in his character's wheelchair, then coming out to join the dance company for Men At Work's "Safety Dance." A mostly undressed Morris had a good time vamping through Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U," while Amber Riley (Mercedes) let the throttle out on her pipes for Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" and in a duet with Naya Rivera (Santana) on Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High." And besides leading the Warblers through their paces, Darren Criss (Blaine) became an honorary New Directions member for the latter part of the concert, including the show-closing Queen hit "Somebody to Love."

Ultimately, Glee Live! condensed the "Glee" experience to its most essential element -- fun. It might not have convinced the non-Gleeks to tune it, but it may well bring them back if the show returns to town next year.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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