Glee had its most risqué hour last night with The Rocky Horror Glee Show, the show’s best theme episode so far. As a part of his ongoing scheme to win back Emma, Mr. Schuester — who finds out Emma saw a midnight show of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with her new boyfriend, Carl (John Stamos) — makes a snap decision to have his club perform songs from the cult movie. While most of the drama was focused on the show’s adults, the episode, directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), used the movie to draw Glee‘s darker elements to the forefront. The sleekly done sets were as movie-like as a Lima, Ohio high school can get — but how did the performance numbers stack up?
“Science Fiction/Double Feature”
The show opens the same as the movie: a giant pair of red lips singing the song’s intro and segueing into Rachel and Finn (a natural fit for newly engaged couple Janet and Brad) on stage during dress rehearsal. The abbreviated clip foreshadows the mysterious flock of characters waiting for them at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s home, and the mainly Rachel-sung tune is a sweet contrast to the chaos that will soon ensue. Their rendition is interrupted by Carl, prompting a replay of the last week’s events.
Despite being confused by the show (“I have no idea what’s going on in the script, and not in a cool Inception kind of way!”), Finn runs through the number with Rachel, Kurt, Quinn and Mercedes (as deranged servant siblings Riff-Raff and Magenta and fellow servant Columbia). It’s exactly what you’d expect to happen when New Directions tackle a musical: they’re fully engaged, campy to the max and totally on point. They also managed to pull off a ready-to-go production in less than a week, but who’s keeping track?
“Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul”
The production couldn’t be drama-free for long. After seeing her latest edition of Sue’s Corner (“We’ve lost the true meaning of Halloween: Fear!”), a pair of local station execs (original Rocky cast members Meat Loaf and Barry Bostwick) enlist her to do an exposé on the outrageous ways taxpayer dollars are being used for school arts programs. Her newfound enthusiasm lands her a role narrating the show as the criminologist, while Emma comes on board as costume designer.
When Mike Chang’s parents force him to withdraw, Sue proposes that Carl takes over as Frank-N-Furter — only he auditions with the song sung by Meat Loaf’s Eddie, “Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul.” Like Glee‘s tributes to Madonna and Britney, this is a shot-by-shot recreation of the scene’s choreography. The scene has a double effect: Carl-as-Eddie winning over the glee clubbers also draws a further divide between Mr. Schuester and Carl. Stamos’ performance is somewhere between Uncle Jesse and his stint as Cabaret‘s emcee on Broadway, perfect for Glee‘s wholesome-with-a-bite approach.
With Carl in as Eddie, Mercedes campaigns for Dr. Frank-N-Furter (originally played by Tim Curry) as a way to finally give her a lead role and modernize New Directions’ take on the show. Cue Mercedes ripping on the tune — albeit a visually toned-down version, as she’s opted for Frank-N-Furter’s lab garb, rather than the leather-and-garter-belt ensemble he wore in the scene. It’s a solo assignment that completely makes sense in the scheme of this episode.
“Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me”
More casting trouble: Sam backs out as Rocky, so Mr. Schuester volunteers — and convinces Emma to help him practice staging for the scene in which Janet seduces Frank-N-Furter’s Frankenstein Adonis. Things veer towards the R-rated: the scene features plenty of groping, sexual tension and a deliciously gratuitous shot of Mr. Schuester’s abs (photos of a scantily clad Matthew Morrison from a Broadway fundraiser made the rounds early in Glee‘s run, so it’s about time). Santana and Brittany as Magenta and Columbia watching the seduction is a fitting play on their naughty school girl persona. Emma — who hasn’t sung lead since last season’s “I Could Have Danced All Night” — is ideal as the naïve-turned-naughty Janet, but we confess we were more in tune with the visuals than the vocals.
“The Time Warp”
After Carl outs Will’s motives, cheerleader Becky outs Sue’s plan and Finn nearly gets suspended from walking around in his boxers and glasses (an attempt to overcome body issues Sam-as-Rocky induced), Mr. Schuester and Sue have a confrontation that addresses the question of where teachers should set artistic boundaries. He ultimately decides to cancel the musical and deliver’s the episode’s message: “Rocky Horror isn’t about pushing boundaries or making an audience accept a certain rebellious point of view… [The midnight shows] were for outcasts, people on the fringes… searching for anyplace where they felt like they belonged.” With that, the entire ensemble delivers a rousing, G-rated rendition of Rocky‘s most popular tune to close out the show.
Bottom Line: Can Adam Shankman direct every episode? Glee has been on an upward climb in season two, peaking with last night’s episode. In two weeks: Puck is back, and the girls tackle “Livin’ On a Prayer.”