Gleefully Gleeky

It seems that my love of Glee really knows no bounds…
Mid-way through my hot date with Mr Schue I was seized with a brilliant idea – something that could make our night at Glee Live truly memorable.

Ever since we’d acquired the tickets back in November, we’d been talking about doing something all together (we were a posse of 5 Gleeks), something that would truly capture the joy of the evening. For several months our thoughts went along the lines of custom made t-shirts with some form of Glee logo on the front and our favourite Glee quote on the back. [Mine would have read: “I’m like Tinkerbell, I need applause to live.” – with thanks to Rachel Berry.] But while watching Matthew Morrison strutting his stuff, a different plan began to form…

I’m not quite sure how it happened – maybe it was the hormones racing through me at the sight of a beautiful singing man – but by the end of the show I’d decided (with Annabelle’s input) that we should go dressed in an outfit that New Directions (aka the Glee Club) had worn for one of their numbers. [For the uninitiated, every song – particularly those performed at a competition – there is a coordinating outfit.] Prom dresses with sashes were contemplated, but deemed impractical; Lady Gaga outfits were pondered – but there was no way I could get enough Beanie Babies (or staples) to emulate Rachel’s costume; and cheerleader uniforms would be just plain wrong. Ultimately, I hit upon a classic that would also be easy to recreate: the red top/blue jeans/Converse combo from Don’t Stop Believing, in the very first episode.

Exhibit A: the beautiful members of New Directions
Exhibit B: the beautiful collection of Gleeks

See, the similarity is uncanny! Sadly no one possessed a red ruffled shirt in which to emulate Kurt, but I channelled a bit of Tina and Mercedes’ style. Was it worth it? Hell yes! Sure, Jenni may have been a bit apprehensive [her response to my tweet re: outfit on Saturday afternoon: “I don’t think I want to come anymore!”]. Yes, we had to explain to our Pizza Express waitress why we looked similar. (At least we weren’t dressed as Smurfs like many other O2 visitors…)

But our moment of glory came on the escalator up to our seats when a gay couple spotted us and called out “Wow, you guys match!” – to which we smiled and nodded. Then the penny dropped and one of them followed up with “Oooooh, I see what you’ve done there – very clever! Love it!”. Ok, so they were the only ones who directly commented on our outfits, but we did bump into them twice after the show and they were always very happy to see us (in fact, one of them took the above photo) and that made it – in my opinion – definitely worth it. Last seen, they were contemplating buying tickets to the rest of the week’s run, so for all I know, they could be back at the O2 right at this minute.

And what of the show?
Well, when making our way slowly out of the arena, the girls asked what I’d blog about it. I said that there wasn’t really a lot to say – “It was AMAZING!” only takes up so much space and isn’t particularly erudite. But, given time to process it all (and share the joy with various friends over the last 24 hours), there were a number of highlights:

Blaine Warbler – and the fact that his surname has apparently become ‘Warbler’. The Warblers were hands-down the highlight of season 2 and their album is a favourite – their set was utterly fabulous and Blaine, well, he’s hot, looks dashing in a blazer and can sing… Combine that with cute Kurt and ditsy Britney and you have a fabulous skit – I adored this moment.

Non auto-tuned, live singing. The Glee cast get a lot of criticism for being auto-tuned, but Glee Live was indeed Glee live and they have some stunning voices. (I knew it was definitely live when Kurt was unfortunately sharp on I Wanna Hold Your Hand, bless him.) Mercedes? Wow. Oh to have her vocal chords and lung capacity…

Dancing – despite fearing that I’d fall off the edge of the gods (we were very, very high up) – with gleeful abandon. Especially when the encore included Single Ladies, possibly one of my all-time favourite Glee moments. Oh, and Valerie – though it turns out it’s rather tricky to lindy hop in a restricted space.

Puckerman. Finn. Blaine. Puckerman. Finn. Blaine…enough said.

Oh, and before I wrap this up, the most gleeful Gleek award actually doesn’t go to one of my comrades, but to my friend Steph who was at Sunday’s matinee. No, she didn’t dress up; nor did she attempt to meet the cast – she did something far more impressive. Her second child was due this week (in fact, I suggested she go dressed as Quinn in the season 1 finale owing to her fabulous bump) but appeared on Thursday evening. Despite still being rather fragile and having a 3 day old baby in tow, Steph made it to the show (with a cushion to make sitting a bit more comfortable) and was upgraded from the gods to stage-side as a reward! That is what I call dedication. [As an aside, the new arrival’s called Annabelle or ‘Belle’, holding true to her Dad’s desire to name their children after musicals – their son’s called Joseph. Where does one find a man like that?!]

The night I spent the evening with Mr Schue

That’s Mr Schuester to be precise – or Matthew Morrison if you’re living in the real world and not an episode of Glee. Last night he kicked off a world tour by playing to a couple of thousand women and gay men at the Hammersmith Apollo [ok, so it’s now officially the ‘HMV Apollo’ but I prefer the old name]. Annabelle and I procured half-price seats courtesy of Groupon on Friday and willingly sacrificed watching the Glee season finale with the rest of our friends so that instead, we could spend a couple of hours in the same room as our favourite teacher – Mr Schue. Bliss.

Honestly, I wasn’t that expecting much. I knew the man can sing – heck, Glee cast tracks account for a not insignificant proportion of the music I listen to – and that he could dance, so I had no doubt that I’d be entertained. He’s officially what’s referred to as a ‘triple threat’, i.e. that he can sing, dance and act [you know, like Gene Kelly and Zac Efron…], however I like to think of him as a quadruple threat – throwing in the added quality of an excellent posterior. But really, the evening was an opportunity to hang out with a favourite friend, giggle like the giggly girls we both are, and it nicely complemented our visit to Glee Live! (the exclamation mark is part of the title) a week on Saturday.

This is what we were greeted with – a classic Jane Lynch/Matthew Morrison skit which includes the most fantastic rendition of Circle of Life I’ve heard in a long while:

Sadly, the video’s missing its best moment – Jane Lynch in full Sue Sylvester mode declaring: “Enjoy the show, losers!”

It got off to a good start, a smart suit, some shiny shoes and some smooth moves – but then came the point where he sang his own material and even though he was clutching a ukulele, my heart sank a little. It sank even further when he uttered the words: “this song’s about the duality of being me and Mr Schuester” – really? Were things going to get that deep and meaningful? However, as soon as the word “ookooleilei” [his adorable, genuinely Polynesian pronunciation of the teeny instrument] came out of his mouth and he began to sing, all was forgiven – our hearts melted and we got terribly girly.

Ironically, it’s quite possible that two of my highlights weren’t thanks to him at all. Well, they kind of were – one was him letting one of his friends propose to his girlfriend on stage, so cute! (I think this might be the first proposal I’ve ever witnessed – this is what it looked like.) Then, allowing his friend JC Chavez (who, utterly unbeknownst to me was once a member of NSync – it pleases me that I needed to be told that) to perform, once in a duet and then in a dancing-in-the-aisles rendition of Glee staple Don’t Stop Believin’.

One of my fears in attending gigs like these (and something I fear greatly about Glee Live!) is the quantity of screaming that takes place – girlish, frenzied and inappropriate. Why the need to yell “I love you Matthew” at random moments? However, there wasn’t a huge amount and our section of the crowd deeply appreciated a manly growl of the same phrase at a very appropriate moment – I hope Matthew appreciated it too. At this point I may need to confess that on Tuesday morning I was rather husky in voice, which can only mean that perhaps I had whooped a little too energetically the night before…

The show was Grobanesque [incidentally, who wants to join me in watching Josh Groban at the Apollo in October? Think it’ll be a good ‘un…] in terms of it’s comedic content. Time for costume changes was provided by informative film segments chronicling Morrison’s career – including interviews with fellow cast members of his pre-Glee jobs in Plea, Flee and Flea. Hilarious. Can I mention that each segment began with a moody black and white shot of the star (with a beard) without sounding too shallow? Maybe not…

Who could possibly resist a man who sings, dances, acts, is not at all unattractive – and can play the ukelele?? (And yes, I did try to find the aforementioned black & white shot, but failed.) 

Oh, and before I start plummeting in your estimations, I was in excellent company. Not only was the wonderful Annabelle with me, but so was the wife of our former PM (Sarah, not Cherie), the good people of Grazia magazine and my favourite London-based American cupcake blogger. See? An audience of mature, responsible women who appreciate some quality musical entertainment… 

I should probably stop rambling. Suffice to say that it was the funnest musical experience I’ve had in a while and kicks off a season of cheesy music in style – this weekend involves not only West End Live, but also a truly nerdy trip to watch the male lead of Legally Blonde’s final show; next weekend’s Glee Live!; the following is Take That – June/July is quite the month of musical fun-ness. Consider yourselves duly warned!

Openness, honesty and t-shirts

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me whether I was the ‘real me’ on Twitter and on my blog – I’m not entirely sure how or why this came up, but it prompted an interesting discussion. The bottom line is that it is the real me exists – here, on Twitter and on Facebook.

No, not every single detail of my life is documented [though one friend at the weekend suggested I did just that on Twitter, with the exception of dating activities – though as I go on very few of those, it’s not exactly a massive omission], but the highs and lows are both in evidence. While I don’t necessarily blog about moments of heartbreak in the public sphere, I do mention the days when life isn’t quite as great as it might be. I’m more likely to rant on Twitter than Facebook; my blog dwells on the quirkier side of life; and Facebook is day to day stuff with real friends. I have boundaries and make conscious decisions about what to share and when (except when under the influence…).

I wonder sometimes at the ability of others to be so candid in their online activities, those that ponder deep philosophical thoughts, document the harsh realities of life, or tell the world just how much they’re hurting right at that moment. I’m not that kind of person, I keep my messy stuff anonymised and highly inaccessible. But openness is also important. Like many a good Christian, I belong to a small group which requires me to be honest and accountable about even the difficult areas of life. It’s scary, but utterly worth the feelings of vulnerability it brings with it – like on Sunday when I shared something incredibly personal and very scary.

In a bizarre coincidence, this concept was the main thrust of this week’s Glee, kind of. At the end of the programme they appeared singing Born This Way (Lady Gaga) wearing t-shirts on which words or phrases were printed that summed up their deep secrets or insecurities – Kurt’s said ‘likes boys’, Santana’s read ‘Lebanese’ (i.e. lesbian, it’s an in-joke), Emma’s admitted her OCD. Within seconds, Twitter was abuzz with people contemplating what their own t-shirts would say.

What about mine? Well, that leads me to the main point of this ridiculously long and honest post…

One of the things I’m particularly in awe of are people who write about their experiences of food, weight and diets in a public forum and use that context to stay accountable. A Facebook friend posts their weight updates every week – good for them, but you wouldn’t catch me doing that. (Partly because it would be so hard in the weeks when things don’t go your way; partly because I wouldn’t want people to know my actual weight; partly because it’s such a bloody hard journey that only the most supportive friends should be involved. Plus, I have a paranoid fear that people will think I’m attention seeking.) However, I came across something a little while ago that I wanted to share, and this seems the logical place to do it.

You see the thing is, my t-shirt would probably read ‘Fat’ or ‘Used to be Fat’ (though people have such varied definitions of the word than in many contexts, like the Daily Mail, I still would be fat). Yes, I used to be fat. Not just ‘could do with losing a stone’ fat, but almost Monica in Friends fat. In my late teens/early 20s I would watch episodes in which her diet was mentioned and think “Wow! If only I could do that…” [though obviously Courtney Cox never was fat so it was a slightly unrealistic ambition]. There were moments when she’d make the throwaway comment “oh, I used to be fat” to explain her attitude to cheese or cookies – a phrase that I’ve actually found myself using recently in pastoral contexts where food issues have cropped up.

Aged 21 I began a journey that saw me lose 5 stone in just over a year. Over the following years I put some of the weight back on and two years ago I began over again with a new attitude and lost another 4 stone. Some people know about both these times, having known me way back when; others know about the last two years; while lots of you have never met me in the flesh and have little idea of what I actually look like.

While I may not put those words on a t-shirt and wear it in public when we go and watch Glee Live in June, there is something I can share publicly that’s just as honest. The photo below was taken on my 21st birthday, while on a walk with the family that lived next door (it’s desperately depressing that the baby in the backpack is now 9, Doris needs to stop growing up!) – today, I honestly don’t recognise myself.

The point of this post is to draw a line under the photo, to stop the past being what identifies me. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting out of that mindset and improving my quality of life – it isn’t who I am any more.  I appreciate that it sounds awfully cheesy, but it’s an important idea. Emma’s t-shirt doesn’t need to say ‘OCD’ once she’s dealt with it; you – and I – don’t need to be defined by our pasts once we’ve moved on. Whether it’s a t-shirt that reads ‘Fat’, ‘Divorced’, ‘Self-harmer’, ‘Single’ or whatever, we don’t need to keep wearing it. 

Gleefully religious?

For the next few weeks I’m at a course on Monday nights, which makes it impossible for me to watch Glee – that all important Monday night TV fixture – in its regular 9pm slot. On my way home last week I checked Facebook and Twitter and spotted a variety of Glee related messages that made me all the more determined to make it back in time for the 10pm E4+1 showing.
The episode in question was apparently religious in nature and had caught the attention not just of my religious friends/twitter people, but of lapsed churchgoers and atheist radio celebrities. In fact, one twitter theologian went as far as to say that it was “a wonderful example of how to do evangelism today”. I might have simply left it at watching the episode and pondering its meaning with a few friends, but for two reasons:
(i) My sister said, on the night it was shown, that she reckoned I’d blog about it within 24 hours. 
(ii) I disagree with the twitter theologian above.
Many sneer at Glee, thinking it trashy TV with trashy music meant only for teenagers and those with little going on in their lives. However, I’m personally of the opinion that every so often – as was the case last week – it manages to deal with serious issues maturely and with the aid of a good soft-rock cover version. [This obviously was not the case for the couple of episodes early in season one where a male character was led to believe his girlfriend had got pregnant while they were making out in a hot tub…] 
This episode managed to highlight a number of religious issues, from the separation of religion & state that’s held so sacred in America, to the importance of religious heritage, via the church’s attitude to homosexuality – all within a storyline that centred upon a grilled cheese sandwich with the face of Jesus on it. [The grill hadn’t grilled properly ever since Finn used it to dry his sneakers.] Finn chooses to pray to Jesus-of-the-sandwich and declares his new found faith (and desire to sing songs about it) to his fellow classmates – and thus the episode begins.
So what have I got to add to the mix? First off, the regular beginning of episode scene set in the glee club classroom has to contain some of the best one-liners of the series and at the same time illustrate diverse religious attitudes and opinions that you’d find in any classroom. 

Kurt: “Most churches don’t think much of gay people. Or women…or science…”

Mercedes: “I don’t see anything wrong with getting a little church up in here.” 

Quinn: “I’ve had a really hard year and I turned to God a lot for help…I for one wouldn’t mind saying thanks.” 

Brittney: “Whenever I pray I fall asleep.”

[Incidentally, my friends created a game years ago that you can play at church/religious festivals entitled ‘praying or sleeping’, which was followed by ‘religious experience or medical emergency’. Hours of fun, right there.]

Puck: “I got no problem with the guy, I’m a total Jew for Jesus, he’s my number one Heeb.”

You know what this episode is really about? It’s not evangelism, or stuffing faith down the throats of those that don’t want to hear (which is most definitely not the same as evangelism) – it’s about prayer.

Finn becomes inspired to pray and then discovers his prayers being answered. The football team wins and he gets to touch his girlfriend’s cleavage – so he’s keen to share the love. He’s also found an object he can use as a focus for his prayers, albeit a savoury snack. When bad stuff ends up happening, apparently as a result of his prayers, he has a crisis and turns to the Guidance Counsellor (who, incidentally is played by a Christian) and discovers that it’s unlikely God had a direct hand in what he’d seen as miracles. [Cue soft-rock to illustrate point and what better than Losing My Religion?]

Kurt’s father Burt has a heart attack and lies in a coma. [It wasn’t until I looked this episode up on Wikipedia that I realised their names rhymed! Such is the subtle genius of Glee.] He’s an atheist and when his religious friends vow to pray for his father, he refuses their support. Ultimately, he ends up at church with Mercedes and watches as the whole church prays for his father to recover. Getting him into church may look like an act of evangelism, but it’s just an act of love by a friend to show that others care so much for people they’ve never met. We don’t know if it changes his opinion of religion, but hopefully it brought him some comfort.

Sue Sylvester – Glee’s most delightfully awful character – comes to blows with the rather weedy Guidance Counsellor over why she’s an atheist. As a child she prayed that her sister (who was born with Downs Syndrome) would get better, but because she never did, so Sue decided that God couldn’t possibly exist. Ironically, it’s revealed that her sister does believe in God and prays for Sue.

They’re all totally logical responses. Who (amongst the churchgoers reading this) hasn’t been given a pebble, rosary, picture or icon with which to direct or focus their prayer? (I’m sure there was a period in the 90s when you couldn’t get through an ‘alternative’ act of worship without being given a pebble.) Persistence in prayer is one thing – desperately praying for your heart’s desire to be fulfilled and it never happening is quite another and phenomenally painful. How do you argue for the existence of God in the face of that? Personally, one of the hardest things I’ve found is comforting atheist friends when my natural response with other Christians would be to say that I’d pray for them – often it’s not what they want to hear.

There’s obviously a lot more that could be said about this, but I’m not entirely sure that I can be this serious about Glee for any longer! I would just like to state for the record that the one thing that did not impress me was the use of One of Us (the mid 90s one-hit-wonder by Joan Osborne) – slightly obvious and a song that has not left my head ever since. Given that the episode also included some classic REM and Bridge Over Troubled Water, you might realise why I’m peeved.

Musical Therapy (& a solution)

As of this morning, I have an exceedingly cheesy line up of musical excitement in the diary for late June/early July next year. On June 25th I will be at the O2 for Glee Live and two weeks later I’ll be at Wembley for Take That. This is super exciting for a whole host of reasons…

Firstly, it’s Glee – live. This not only means lots of cheesy songs, but also the prospect of being in the same room and breathing the same air as Mr Schu. Awesome. Secondly, Take That – need I really say more? I’ve never been to Wembley (except to protest at an England vs Israel match), never seen Take That live, never seen Robbie live (it disturbs me slightly that I still have such a soft spot for Mr Williams after so many years, but whatever…) and I’m going with a fabulous group of people. See, it’s all super exciting.

However, I need some help.
[I know a few of you will already be making lists of therapists I could go to right at this moment.]

My taste, or rather my collection of music is boring me. There’s still months to go until Glee season 2 airs here, and thus longer until I can justify acquiring the next load of soundtracks – last season’s is wearing a little thin. It also seems that there really is a limit on how many musical theatre tunes you can listen to in a week.

Plus, I now have (until the end of January) unlimited Spotify and I want to make the most of it. At the moment, the best thing about this is the fact that I can access my playlists offline via my iPhone – meaning that it’s excellent accompaniment to tube journeys. However, two weeks in and what I’d already diligently stored over the last year of listening at work is becoming tedious – but the wealth of Spotify gives me brain freeze, I can’t cope with the choices!

Yesterday I even resorted to typing ‘spotify’ into gmail to uncover all emails and chats in which friends had recommended links in order to re-discover stuff. Then I found a friend had listed albums they’d liked in their wishlist, so I went through those too. All good, but I made few really awesome discoveries.

Thing is, I lack patience. A couple of songs by the same artist? Fine. An entire album? Potentially tedious. For example, I enjoy folk, but an entire album of a wailing woman and an acoustic guitar just depresses me. For this reason, I’m particularly after anyone who’s created (or knows of) some genius Spotify playlists.

In return, I can at least offer you the following:

Otherwise, some good atmospheric film soundtracks wouldn’t go amiss, nor would some slightly obscure classical stuff. Clearly I’m just lazy, which is why I’ll happily write a post about this, rather than actually spend time hunting it out myself.

Update:
I’ve found a solution to my problem – a whole website devoted to the sharing of Spotify playlists. Currently I’m plugged into an X Factor 2010 collection. Judge me not – I’ve barely had any opportunity to watch the show – and as this playlist includes the original Viva Las Vegas, rather than Wagner’s slaughtering of it, it’s an altogether happier experience.