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Strangers with Candy (and Booze): Kristin Chenoweth Belts It Out on "Glee"

Can Kristin Chenoweth be on Glee every week? Pretty please?

Last night's episode of Glee ("The Rhodes Not Taken"), written by Ian Brennan and directed by John Scott, saw the diminutive former Pushing Daisies star guest star as former high school singing sensation April Rhodes, a woman now reduced to squatting in a bank-owned home and working her way through a box of wine on her lonesome.

Three credits shy of graduating high school, the boozy and flirtatious April is lured back into the spotlight of McKinley High glee club by a desperate Will, who needs to replace Rachel now that she's skipped out on the club to focus on stardom with a leading role in a Cabaret production. But Finn has his own plot to get Rachel back in glee, though he has some less than altruistic motivations for doing so.

Still with me?

I thought that Chenoweth knocked it out of the park last night and fit in beautifully with the quirkiness of Glee. Was it a little unbelievable that the, uh, slightly older April would be willing and able to return to high school just so that Will could find a star-quality singer to propel the club to regionals? You betcha. But that was also part of the loopy charm of the episode itself, calling to mind Comedy Central's Amy Sedaris-led series Strangers With Candy, yet Chenoweth made the episode all her own by dint of her own magnificent voice and star wattage.

The sequence where she managed to win over each of the members of New Directions, from plying Kurt with box-grade Chablis and vintage muscle magazines, instructing Mercedes and Tina in the art of shoplifting, and, uh, seducing Puck was absolutely hysterical (as was her introduction to a speechless Will) but Chenoweth more than proved her singing chops with some show-stopping numbers that made me wish that she'd stick around for longer.

Likewise, I wish that the bowling alley bar duet between Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison on Heart's "Alone" would have gone on longer as it was so fantastic yet all too brief. "Alone" is a tricky song to pull off and make it your own yet Chenoweth did just that. (I'm hoping that somewhere there's a full-length version of Chenoweth and Morrison's song.)

But there was also a hell of a lot of other amazing music in this episode, from Lea Michele and Chenoweth's stunning "Maybe This Time," to the gang on Carrie Underwood's "Last Name," and the poignant and soul-stirring take on Queen's "Somebody to Love."

While the episode didn't quite tug on the same heartstring's as last week's gorgeously produced Kurt-centric episode, "The Rhodes Not Taken" was more than enjoyable, offering as it did some further developments between Finn and Rachel, a new tangle in the Will-Teri-Emma love triangle, and some powerful musical numbers. I'm not sure what ever happened to Figgis' insistence that the club only sing from a list of pre-approved tracks (anyone care to fill me in on that dangling plot thread?) and I didn't totally buy Rachel backtracking back to glee after she was given total creative control over Cabaret by Sue.

But these are minor quibbles when faced with the awe-inspiring talents of Lady Cheno and the kids, especially when the latter aren't electronically enhanced (as they seemed to be in the rehearsal scene at the start of the episode). I think the series works best when these musical numbers are elaborate fantasy-based set pieces ("Maybe This Time") or stage-set numbers (as in "Somebody to Love") rather than in the rehearsal process. But it's the former that the most imaginative and revealing. After all, what high schooler hasn't lived their life to a secret inner soundtrack? By erasing the line between reality and fantasy, these inner monologues reveal a great deal about the singer and the song. And at the end of the day, is that not what Glee is all about?

Missed last night's episode or just want to watch it again? Worry not, as you can watch "The Rhodes Not Taken" in full right below.

Next week on Glee ("Vitamin D"), Will challenges the kids to a healthy dose of competition with boys against girls in a mashup showdown; Terri takes a job as the school nurse, despite having no medical experience, to keep an eye on Will; Ken makes Emma a life-changing offer.


Anonymous said…
I think the loose reasoning behind the ability to sing other songs was allowing Quin into the group (since she's known for her pious ways).

As long as they keep their musical numbers anchored in reality, I'll be okay. When Mercedes burst out in a 'daydream' that was a bit much for me. Especially with all their interview posturing about how all the music is set in reality. That was not.
Anonymous said…
The full length version of "Alone" is available on iTunes.
Bella Spruce said…
I actually think the fantasy musical sequences work perfectly. After all, as Jace said, what teenager hasn't lived their life to a "secret inner soundtrack."
Unknown said…
The duet of Heart's "Alone" was great. After the ep was over, I went back and listened again. I should've listened to "Maybe This Time" again, too--that was amazing.

Although this ep wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as last week's, I enjoyed the heightened poignancy and depth of the characters' motivations: the heartbreaking vision of Rachel's eager hopefulness contrasted with Finn's guilty knowledge that he's seducing a vulnerable girl with false promises; Emma's shameless manipulation of Finn to eliminate her (perceived) rival for Will's affections.

So well done on so many levels.
Anonymous said…
Right after watching this episode I bought "Alone" and "Somebody to Love" on iTunes. The longer version of "Alone" is very good, you should buy it. This show has been growing on me and this was the first episode that I really loved. Doesn't hurt that I'm a fan of Kristen Chenowith, ever since Pushing Daisies (oh how I miss that show and that cast). I really hope they decide to bring her back on as a regular somehow.
shamangrrl said…
I adore this show, and yes, I agree that every teen lives their life with a interior soundtrack. Heck, I'm well past my teen years, and I still live that way.

Anyway, this was a great episode, and KC was incredible. Every time she opened her mouth and started singing, my mother actually stopped whatever she was doing, to come watch ths show. And my mother *hates* musical.

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