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Critic's Notebook: The 'Glee' machine

'Glee Live! In Concert!' shows that the show is as much about marketing as it is about music.

May 23, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

As the franchise grew to Vegas-sized proportions, as episodes brought Fleetwood Mac onto the iPods of the young and uninitiated, the show itself has grown ever more "Mamma Mia!"-esque, and not just in its use of exclamation points. Increasingly inconsistent and/or repetitive stories appeared constructed simply to accommodate the music. Criss and Chord Overstreet were brought in not just to fuel rumors about which would be Kurt's (Chris Colfer) love interest but because the show needed stronger male vocal stars. This just added to an already unwieldy cast stretched further by A-list guest stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett and Kristin Chenoweth.

It all makes sense, of course. Having succeeded so enormously, "Glee's" creators, naturally, want to give their audience even more of what they want. But when your creation burns so fast and so bright, guarding the other end of the candle is part of that process too.

As "Don't Stop Believin'" caused the multi-demographic Vegas crowd to explode into Gleek love on Saturday night, it seemed impossible that just a few short years ago that song belonged to "The Sopranos" in a way that seemed final and historic. But the Sopranos didn't sing and dance, and they certainly did not come to Vegas to perform their audience's very favorite scenes.

It would be unfair to say that "Glee" is overexposed when its numbers remain so big, its fans still so devoted. So if Colfer went flat during "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and it was, more than once, difficult to hear the voices much less the words of the songs, it didn't matter. "Glee Live! In Concert!" is not so much a concert as it is a communion between a show's fans and its talented, hard-working cast — and when they closed with "Safety Dance" and "New York" it's clear why that communion exists.

But once you've done Vegas, the question remains: Where do you go from there?

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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