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Review: Glee Live Tour

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Chris Wheeler

Glee has totally split opinion, there’s no denying it. A lot of the ‘serious’ theatre community seem to loathe it; hating the auto-tune, the arrangement of the music and the storylines in general.

I have to confess at this point that I am completely hooked on the show. I know most of the episodes by heart, and own all the albums and bits of merchandise. However, before you discard this review as the ravings of a teenage girl masquerading as a 19-year-old man, hear me out.

Glee is utter escapism. It’s tongue in cheek, and completely plays with the style that it sets. It spends the whole time laughing at itself, at how ridiculous it is, and even at the writers themselves. Very few television programmes have the sheer audacity that Ryan Murphy and his creative team throw into every episode of Glee. Any show that preaches the values of acceptance and learning to love yourself to young teenagers worldwide deserves some praise, but to do it with such style is spectacular.

With my love of the show, it’s unsurprising that I was one of the ‘Gleeks’ who managed to secure tickets to Glee Live at the O2 Arena last weekend. I paid more for the tickets than I did to see Take That or Rihanna, but this was the chance to celebrate my love for the show with a crowd of thousands , and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Taking a show like Glee on an arena tour must be quite a challenge – and the performance could have completely flopped. It was impossible to know what to expect; whether it would all be linked together with some sort of poor storyline, or whether the cast would literally just sing a few songs. I was expecting to be disappointed, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gig quite like it – the cast completely threw themselves into it, and sang each song perfectly (yes, with a little help from pitch correction, but not a lot!). It was imaginatively designed, and very tightly choreographed.

We all know Lea Michele from Spring Awakening, so it’s with no surprise that she sang exceptionally. Darren Criss, Amber Riley and Chris Colfer joined her with the strongest vocal performances – there was no weak link.

The show only lasted for about 90 minutes, but there wasn’t a dull moment. The cast are mind-blowingly talented, and the show didn’t need to be constructed as any sort of pantomimic story. Instead the cast stayed in character, and simply performed the musical highlights from the past two seasons. Murphy managed to strip the show right back to its bare talent, and then took this to arenas around the US and Europe. His creative flair is inspirational.

I was part of an audience of mad ‘Gleeks’, all belting out songs about self-acceptance and love. Maybe Glee is over-camp, silly, and maybe some of the arrangements aren’t as good as the original songs, but Glee Live was a celebration of theatre, music and love. For me, that’s the sign of a wonderful performance; I couldn’t have asked for more.

Chris Wheeler

Chris Wheeler is artistic director of FreeRange Productions

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