‘Glee Project’: Theatricality Week Creates Some Drama – Finally!

The Glee Project (Oxygen)

This week, the “Glee Project” finally reached the moment I didn’t realize I’d been craving in a competition series: the time when I sigh and groan and point my shaming finger at the judges and say, “What is wrong with you?! Have you no taste?”

Because this season has been drifting along on an even keel for too long with no game-changing surprises or over-the-top diva-monsters to hate (secretly love). The contenders can’t even follow the cardinal law of reality TV; you guys are totally here to make friends, don’t lie.

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While it’s fulfilling to see the right person go home week after week, it’s also a little boring. I say that with love, Captain Adorable. Please don’t cry.

This week the right person was sent packing (sad but true), but the selection of the Bottom Three and the Last Chance Round were maddening, which made the elimination more entertaining. What’s more fun than watching anxiously and making empty threats that start with, “If he gets sent home for THAT…”?

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First we had to get through a brief warm-up period in which in was established that since Charlie and Aylin can no longer be together, we can invest ourselves in the Blake-Michael bromance. Except we won’t, because… yawn.

Lily took charge when the week’s theme of theatricality was announced. No one but Aylin seemed to grumble at this. The assignment was to perform “I Hope I Get It,” the opening number from “A Chorus Line.”

It wasn’t clear how many of the contenders had actually heard the song before. Important note: if you hadn’t either until now, click on over to wherever you get your music and download either Broadway cast recording of the musical. Good times will ensue.

Anyway, the homework performance wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t theatrical either. A lot of the contenders have voices suited for pop that just weren’t big enough for this music. And most of their movements and facial expressions looked forced. Basically everyone but Ali and Lily needed help.

Grant Gustin, aka Glee’s Scumbag Sebastian, was there to witness it all as the week’s guest mentor. What a big jerk he is for being likeable after I’ve made it my mission in life to loathe his counterpart. He gave the notes we’ve all memorized by now, that Michael and Nellie needed confidence and Lily was funny and a great singer. But the winner was Ali, whom he felt had the emotions of the song “organically coming out of [her].”

Robert and Grant proceeded to peg everyone with a pop icon alter ego to go with the concept of the video shoot for “When I Grow Up,” by the Pussycat Dolls. Here’s the lineup:

• Michael – Elvis Presley
• Aylin – Madonna
• Abraham – David Bowie
• Blake – Boy George
• Lily – Cyndi Lauper
• Ali – Katy Perry
• Shanna – Lady Gaga
• Nellie – Britney Spears

Zach led them all through dance rehearsals, where he warned them not to embarrass him again. But not in like a “Dance Moms” way, more like Sesame Street.

But this was also the first hint at controversy, because Lily started expressing confusion (in a completely non-diva way) about how to portray her character. Zach said not necessarily to act like the real Cyndi exactly, just like a heightened version of how a pop celeb would. This is when Lily decided to make her Cyndi like herself – quirky and fun-loving. Not a bold choice, but one that didn’t contradict any direction we saw her receive from Zach or Erik.

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Then Michael faltered in the recording booth again, while Abe and Nikki had this exchange that initially seemed like a simple, “Let’s get real” moment but what was later revealed to be a bigger deal.

Nikki asked Abraham if he considered himself an androgynous performer. Abe was like, “I’m free,” and Nikki said, “Oh, please.” Then Abe struggled to get his vocals done. Later Nikki and Recording Booth Guy gossiped about how that was a super easy question to answer.

This season had a transgender guy and a self-described androgynous girl in the mix, so gender identity hasn’t been a taboo subject. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry a lot of weight for Abraham, who was bullied for being effeminate as a kid. It’s a source of vulnerability for him that he’s working to get over. Nikki didn’t know that and perhaps wasn’t very sensitive, but he didn’t immediately explain why his performance immediately became stressed, so there was a lack of communication and understanding all around.

So by now you’ve probably realized that Lily and Abe were both in the bottom, which I think was completely wrong. Okay, maybe Lily still deserved to be there – we have no idea what kinds of direction she got that may have been edited out. But based on what we saw, both of them excelled more than the others in the video.

Ali was deemed best overall, which was pretty accurate. As a stage vet, she hasn’t mastered how to pull in her face a little for camera, something Lily is really good at, but she was fun to watch and sang well. Same for Aylin. I approve of their callbacks.

Shanna was forced to wear a stinky, heavy meat dress all day, which kind of won her a pass, if you ask me. I like her a lot, but I don’t see how her performance was specific to a character at all, and certainly not Gaga-worthy. She just did the very typical and vague seduce-the-camera act that all the B-list pop starlets do. Not heightened, not unique. But she didn’t complain or hold back at all, even though she was near vomiting all day, which earned her kudos. Good for her, but her costume outshone her.

And Blake was praised for his take on Boy George, which was not very different from Lily’s take on Cyndi Lauper in that he just seemed to be an enthusiastic dude. Emphasis on “dude.” He wasnted to show that gay men are more than sass, but his slightly macho, stone-faced performance didn’t gel with his costume at all. Not sassy does not equal not interesting. Also, I’m glad he claims to be comfortable with all things gay, but saying you “have a homosexual brother” is maybe the least laidback way to express that.

So maybe Lily wasn’t super unique or heightened, but she knows how to act on camera and girl can sing. And the most compelling performer in the video was Abraham! His dancing was awesome and he exuded personality. He said before the shoot that he wanted to embrace Bowie’s gender-bending spirit and have fun with it, which he absolutely did.

So he got screwed.

Michael and Nellie, on the other hand, were completely lacking in charisma. Michael’s earnest “I’m acting! See my furrowed brows?” faces (something I like to call “pulling a Samuel”) are not enough for him to keep escaping the Bottom Three. So he spun around in an Elvis costume. He was frozen 98% of the time elsewhere on set and in the booth! Make the guy sing for his life already. RuPaul would demand so much more.

Early on, Nellie managed to shine in the videos despite being uncomfortable. But she has lost that completely. She can still be super passionate behind a mic onstage, which means she should absolutely keep trying for a singing career. But she’s got to loosen up if she wants to be an actor… which I’m not sure she really does.

Thankfully, Nellie took the fall so Abe and Lily, after giving killer performances, could stick around, but not before being scolded by Zeus. Abraham was ordered to stop being a kiss-ass diva to cover up his fear. Lily was told to lose the “yes, but” if she came back.

If the Dull Twins, Michael and Blake, are next to go, this will shape up into a real competition. Either way, there will hopefully be more yelling at the TV in the weeks to come.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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