‘Glee’ concert at Verizon Center brings out the Gleeks

June 10, 2011

“Glee! Live! In Concert!” is as subtle a spectacle as its triple-exclamation-pointed title suggests.

At Thursday night’s sold-out Verizon Center show, 14 actors, sans adult cast members, performed in character, alternately occupying the main stage and a smaller square island of a platform set in an ocean of audience. No song passed without a pyrotechnic display — as if, not content with the already impressive talents of the cast, the show’s producers felt the need to go over every moment of the concert with a highlighter. Almost everything about the production is a little bit ridiculous.

In fact, the show would be completely ridiculous if it weren’t for one thing.

It’s fun. Really, really fun. Like the joy of belting along with the radio multiplied by a thousand.

The televised “Glee” follows McKinley High glee club the New Directions in its pursuit of glee-club victory and high school happiness. Every teen stereotype is duly represented, from ditzy cheerleader to geeky overachiever. Each episode is punctuated by music-video-style song-and-dance sequences, both glee club performances and fantasy production numbers staged in the high school’s hallways. (The morning after a show airs, those songs are inevitably in the Top 10 on iTunes; the show has already spawned more Billboard hits than Elvis.)

What started as a satire chronicling the camaraderie of a group of teenage outcasts has evolved into a formidable moneymaking machine. The cast can now be seen shilling for Chevy, smiling from every gleaming lunchbox at Target and, as it began doing last year, performing live in concert. Now in its second season, the show has lost momentum and its ratings are down. But its hard-core fans — “Gleeks,” naturally — remain as devoted as ever. The show is dedicated to, and adored by, the chronically uncool.

“We got a fan package with the special tickets we bought, and they came with these ties and a playbook,” said 12-year-old Celia Giancola, showing off her Warbler necktie. “The show’s not exactly realistic — ”

“But the emotions are realistic,” cut in her friend, Sydney Memphos.

“We talk about it all the time,” Giancola added. “And if you come into school the next day and haven’t seen the show, you can’t talk to anyone.”

As evidenced by the audience at Thursday’s show, there are multiple varieties of Gleek. Teenage girls who seem to have more braces than teeth, wearing matching pink “o.m.glee” T-shirts squealed as they debated the relative hotness of characters Sam and Puck. Women giggled in groups, trying to anticipate the night’s set list. Gay kids on dates rushed arm-in-arm to the concession stand, where the multiplicity of wares included a $200 Glee jacket.

Michelle Cockerham, a 17-year-old self-proclaimed “total Gleek,” carried a sign that read “Proud to be a Loser” in big bubble letters, the “L” shaped like the hand from the “Glee” logo.

“I was picked on growing up, especially in elementary school, ” she said before the show. “And I finally developed a mind-set to be proud of who I am. ‘Glee’ reinforced that.”

Is there anything less cool than skipping in circles while singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” as the show’s cast did on Thursday? Possibly not — but there was no mistaking the emotion emanating from the stage. It was loud and bright, as intense as a physical force, bouncing off the venue’s walls.

It was there when Chris Colfer nailed every note in “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and when Amber Riley duetted with Naya Rivera on the diva-tastic “River Deep, Mountain High.” It was in Lea Michele’s vocal acrobatics and the physics-defying dancing of Heather Morris and Harry Shum Jr. It was in the Warblers’ triple-threat medley of “Teenage Dream,” “Silly Love Songs” and “Raise Your Glass.”

The feeling was — there is no other word for it — glee.

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