10 April 2011

Wouldn’t It Be Great if Joyce DiDonato Guest-starred on ‘Glee’?

A Very Special Guest Star?

Among the gratifying responses to my proposed scenario for a guest appearance by Susan Graham on TV’s Glee came several comments (including one from Susan herself) urging me to speculate on what might happen if Joyce DiDonato were to guest-star on the show. Dear readers, in truth it was always my intention to do so.

What strikes me is how much artists like Joyce and Susan represent the Glee paradigm: that music can lift us out of our problems and carry us to almost unimaginable new feelings and experiences. If Joyce hadn’t pursued her singing career, I can absolutely picture her teaching high school somewhere in Kansas — not all that unlike Will Schuester, challenging her students and pointing them in new directions. As a girl, Susan was active in her church choir, and even composed music for the group (and presumably those hymns were at least as good as Rachel Berry’s immortal “My Headband”): real life doesn’t get much more Glee-like than that.

Ultimately, of course, both women had the talent and drive that took them far beyond Kansas City and Midland — which is exactly what Rachel and Kurt and all the kids at McKinley High dream of doing.

In addition to the necessary qualities that make Joyce such an effective Ambassador from Opera World (good looks, acting ability, gorgeous voice, sense of humor), she possesses a couple of extremely Glee-friendly assets. She’s from the Midwest — not all that far, geographically or philosophically, from Lima, Ohio, where the show is set. This helps to explain her hardworking levelheadedness, her inability to take anything for granted, and her generally upbeat disposition. And there’s one other hallmark of her career thus far that might prove especially effective in a Glee context. You’ll see what I mean.

Welcome to the wood-and-metal-and-auto shop at William McKinley High School! The classroom is humming, as many of our favorite characters learn practical skills that will be a boon in later life if they never get out of Ohio. Finn is repairing a car, Santana is welding everything in sight (you know she would, too), and Puck is constructing a “sex chair,” which we never actually see, but from the reactions on the other characters’ faces, we can tell that it’s pretty wild.

Mark Salling as Puck

Even Kurt is hard at work. As he explains, “It’s easy enough to give Barbie a wardrobe makeover, but that Dream House is hopeless. You’ve got to start over from scratch.” (It’s a present for Blaine!)

Moving around the room, inspecting the projects and offering advice, is the shop teacher, an attractive person in loose-fitting overalls. The catch is: nobody is sure whether s/he’s a man or a woman. Karofsky has a question about radiator repair, but he hesitates, barely even getting out the first syllable of “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

“You can just call me Lou,” says the teacher — special guest star Joyce DiDonato!

Our first number: the kids sing Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”

Chord Overstreet as Sam

Of course, this is an opportunity to exploit Joyce’s affinity for trouser roles in opera: she’s just wrapping up a run as the page boy Isolier in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory at the Met, where next month she’ll sing the Composer in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. You wouldn’t know it to see her in street clothes (there’s a nice crowd on that balcony, as my French neighbors would say), but Joyce has got a real knack for butching it up.

And while Glee has done a terrific job of exploring questions about sexuality, the gender-ambiguous Lou can take the discussion even further. It’s cutting edge.

[NOTE TO JOYCE: Speaking of cutting, this gig will require you to cut your hair — really short. Art demands sacrifice, and anyway, it will grow back.]

Then some other stuff happens.

Jayma Mays as Emma

Cut to the teachers’ lounge. Will is planning to direct the spring musical, and he asks Lou Flaherty for help building the sets. “Sure,” says Lou. “What’s the show?”

“Well, we got into such hot water when we did Rocky Horror last fall that I thought we’d try something completely safe: The Wizard of Oz. Nobody can object to that, right?”

When Lou leaves the room, the other teachers start whispering. “At last,” says Emma Pillsbury, “I think I’ve met a man I could give myself to completely.”

Dot Marie Jones as Coach Bieste

“What makes you think she’s a man?” says Coach Bieste.

“I — I just assumed,” Emma stammers. “What makes you think he’s a woman?”

“She’s more feminine than I am,” Coach Bieste replies.

“That’s setting the bar pretty low, don’t you think?” Sue Sylvester snaps.

Clearly, Lou is a troubling presence, and both Emma and Coach Bieste are eager to stake a claim. Together, they sing the Paul McCartney–Michael Jackson hit, “The Girl Is Mine.” (Except that Emma says “boy” and Bieste says “girl.”)

Cory Monteith as Finn

Will and Sue decide to find out the truth, each in his or her own way. For Sue, that means breaking into Principal Figgins’ office at night. For Will, that means asking Lou out on a date — sort of. “You want to grab a beer after work, maybe catch a movie — or go dancing?”

“Sure,” says Lou. “Pick me up at my house at 7?”

Then some other stuff happens.

Dianna Agron as Quinn

Lou lives with his/her father, who is played by another special guest star Shaun Cassidy (because really, Joyce should get some fun out of this). Dressed in boots, slacks and a long leather coat, Lou is still pretty hard to peg.

Will and Lou wind up in a bar, and Lou explains that s/he doesn’t really want to go dancing, because of something weird that happened the last time s/he went out. And s/he sings the Kinks’ “Lola.”

Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester

During the number, of course, Lou and Will dance, much as the characters in the song do. Will is completely baffled, but also kind of turned on.

Meanwhile, in Figgins’ office, Sue has found Lou’s file. “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s genetically superior uncle!” she exclaims.


Back at the Flaherty home, Lou’s Dad asks how the date went. Together, Lou and Dad sing “Da Doo Ron Ron” (“I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still / Somebody told me that his name was Will”).

Then some other stuff happens.

Kevin McHale as Artie

Casting The Wizard of Oz turns out to be much more contentious than Will imagined. Artie wants to play the Tin Man (“It’s all about the metal!” he cries), but Mike Chang insists that it’s really a dancing role. “If you think I’m playing a Munchkin, you’re nuts,” Mercedes says. At least everyone agrees that, while Sue would be the ideal Wicked Witch, no one would be able to hear any of the songs over the screams of terrified children in the audience. And besides, it’s a student musical.

Chris Colfer as Kurt

The biggest clash comes between Kurt and Rachel: both of them want to play Dorothy, and this time, Kurt isn’t backing down. “Are you trying to tell me that a girl can’t sing ‘Over the Rainbow’?” Rachel shrieks. “It’s not as if it’s never happened!”

“That was the exception that proved the rule!” Kurt insists.

Lea Michele as Rachel

In another of their famous “duets,” we see Kurt’s and Rachel’s auditions, and they’re both amazing, of course. Will doesn’t want to disappoint Kurt, after all he’s been through, but what can he do? It’s a girl’s role.

“Let’s be honest,” Kurt says. “We both know Rachel would look terrible in a Dorothy dress. And we also know that blue is my color.”

Lou stops hammering the Emerald City set long enough to overhear. “What about gender-neutral casting?” s/he says.

Jenna Ushkowitz as Tina

And so the casting is announced:
Dorothy (Kurt)
Scarecrow (Tina)
Tin Man (Artie)
Cowardly Lion (Mercedes)
Wizard (Lauren Zizes)
Glinda (Sam)
Wicked Witch (Santana)
Munchkin Mayor (Puck)
Aunt Em (Quinn)
Uncle Henry (Mike Chang)
Toto (Brittany)

As a special treat, we get to hear Mercedes sing “King of the Forest,” which would be mind-blowing.

Amber Riley as Mercedes

Then some other stuff happens.

Cut to the teachers lounge. Lou is reading Popular Mechanics when Sue walks in. “All right, Flaherty, the jig is up,” Sue says. “I’m onto you.”

“Are you going to tell anybody?” Lou asks.

“That depends on you,” Sue replies. “I can be very cooperative … with people who do what I tell them to do. Kiss me, you fool.”

Jane Lynch as Sue

They start making out — but we still don’t know whether Lou is a guy or a girl. Just then, Coach Bieste walks in and sees them. Her eyes filling with tears, she runs away.

Cut to Figgins’ office. Parents are already complaining about The Wizard of Oz. “I don’t care how high his upper register is,” Figgins tells Will. “You can’t put a boy in a dress on that stage!”

“It’s gender-neutral!” Will says.

“It’s a kids’ show! Recast it now — and that is not a request,” says Figgins.

Iqbal Theba as Figgins

Coach Bieste bursts in. “Why didn’t anybody tell me about Flaherty?” she sobs.

But before we can learn anything more, sirens start going off. “It’s a twister!”

“Everybody into the cellar!” Figgins shouts. Because it turns out that McKinley High has a root cellar. It’s the Midwest, after all.

We then get an exciting montage of tornado footage. At one point, Artie is swept into the air. His wheelchair turns into a broom, and he flies all over Lima.


Wee-yotch: Naya Rivera as Santana

The next thing we know, Terri Schuester (Jessalyn Gilsig) is waking up in the hospital. “What happened? Where am I?”

“You caught quite a bump on the head during the storm, honey,” says Terri’s cousin Louise, who’s visiting from Kansas City.

“I had the strangest dream,” Terri says. She looks around the room, pointing to Louise, her Uncle Henry (Shaun Cassidy), Santana (a candy striper, remember?), and Will. “You — and you — and you — and you were there! But the strange thing is, I wasn’t in this episode. I mean — in this dream.”

Jessalyn Gilsig as Terri

“Just try and get some rest,” Santana says.

“You’re not really going to direct The Wizard of Oz with a boy playing Dorothy, are you?” Terri asks Will.

“No, we’re doing South Pacific this year,” Will says. Quick cut to Tina, singing “Happy Talk” to Mike Chang (who’s the only kid in school with abs good enough to play Lieutenant Cabell).

Harry Shum, Jr., as Mike Chang

“And now that I know you’re okay,” Will adds, “I’ve got to go, because I still hate you.”

Terri sighs. “I’ll get him back, some day. Remember how good things were in the beginning?”

“I sure do!” says Cousin Louise, and the episode concludes with a final chorus of “Da Doo Ron Ron,” as sung by Terri, Louise, and Uncle Henry.

Fade out.

Your thoughts?

Guest Star Shaun Cassidy

NOTE: If you’re adamant about getting opera onto Glee, there are several opportunities here for Joyce to sing Cherubino’s “Non so più.”


dyormen said...

Joyce Didonato will be fabulous on Glee. Just fabulous. She's fabulous in all contexts.

dyormen said...
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