Glee: "I Am Unicorn"

    Rachel (Lea Michele) and Shelby (Idina Menzel) sing “Somewhere” in “I Am Unicorn.” Photo courtesy of FOX.

    Ten minutes after “I Am Unicorn,” I called my father on the phone and talked with him about what songs were on the second episode of Glee’s third season. “That’s one of my favorite songs,” he says, and a few seconds later he’s singing the words to “I’m the Greatest Star.”

    This episode was filled with plot developments and character growth — but its best quality was that it was filled with Broadway songs.

    The story of “I Am Unicorn” provided some much-needed relief from last week’s endless stream of downers. Each character, from Quinn and Puck to Kurt and Brittany, seemed to start afresh this episode and leave exciting prospects for the rest of the season.

    And after Glee tonight, sure, I was excited to have seen Quinn return to the New Directions, Kurt to have accepted himself, Finn to have improved his dancing skills (to some extent) — but I was most excited to go on a Tony and Maria listening binge.

    Every once in a while I’ll have the inexplicable craving to listen to the West Side Story soundtrack. It’s something about the booming orchestra, the strong tenor and delicate soprano, the loud and slightly out of tune ensemble numbers that I just love.

    Last season, the tendency for Glee was to mix up contemporary pop music with 80s synth rock and the occasional Broadway melody thrown in. This season — or at least these first two episodes — have seen absolutely no chart-toppers of the 2000’s yet. A few old hits were used, but the star songs of the season premiere and its follow-up were the absolutely amazing musical theater numbers.

    Being raised a musical theatre geek — clearly evidenced by my father who bursts out in song like Streisand in Funny Girl — has certainly skewed my opinion of what constitutes the greatest music. But I will make the concession that pop music is truly at its best when it is performed on Glee. Even Lady Gaga — and I’m preparing for the oncoming storm of disapproval — sometimes sounds better when performed by Lea Michele or Chris Colfer. It’s because the Glee arrangements are just that good.

    But while the modern pop numbers can be quite amazing, the Glee kids are really in their element when they sing the songs they did in “I Am Unicorn.” And it’s something that needs to keep happening, if not quite so frequently then certainly more often than last season. At the risk of sounding like a nostalgic curmudgeon — some of the best music of our era has been overlooked and it is high time Glee brings it back to us.

    The Songs of “I Am Unicorn”:

    “Somewhere” — The most exciting thing for a musical theater buff/Glee fan is when Idina Menzel, one of the queens of modern theater, returns to the show. And this performance, like every one of her others on the show, was beautiful and heartbreaking. Rachel (Lea Michele) was made to sing with Shelby (Menzel).

    “I’m the Greatest Star” — If not for the weird jungle gym present on stage during this performance, it may have actually had greater effect. The constant distraction had a bit of a ruinous effect, but otherwise — Kurt, as always, is the male Barbra.

    “Something’s Coming” — Perhaps eventually the gushing over Darren Criss will grow old and I will be forced to find another outlet, but this song was just amazing enough to warrant him one more collective sigh. He is absolutely made for Tony.


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