Get out your Playbill and ready those jazz hands — it's theatricality week on The Glee Project. Each of the contenders, who all no question snagged leading roles in every musical at their respective high school's stages, are convinced they've got this one in the bag. But, alas, one poor thespian will be forced to take his or her final bow at the end of this hour.
Jumping right in to the homework assignment, as we are wont to do, the contenders learn some spiffy line dancing to go with their rendition of A Chorus Line's "I Hope I Get It." "It worked! Like a puzzle!" Lily shouts upon rediscovering the joys of a box step; Michael Bennett promptly turns over in his grave.
In order to fairly judge such a classic Broadway tune, Robert enlists a proper Broadway star to be this week's super secret guest mentor/judge. It's Darren Criss! No wait, it's not Darren Criss. That would be the obvious choice. Let's try this again. This week's super secret guest judge mentor is… Grant Gustin! You know, the other Broadway vet on Glee. Robert explains how he plucked Gustin out of obscurity while he was doing a little thing called starring in the national revival tour of West Side Story. Grant pretends that he loves singing pop music more than he loves singing show tunes (you can't fool me!) and the contenders pretend they're not disappointed that Darren Criss is absent.
The homework assignment performance, per usual, is great. This time around I was especially struck by how well the contenders were able to divvy up the song's complicated harmonies and layers. Do we think they get a little help from Nicki during their rehearsal time, or do they actually figure out the arrangements all by themselves? There's just no way you can learn "I Hope I Get It" without a piano and some sheet music. But I digress. Grant names Ali the homework assignment victor. Yay for Ali!
And now, since this episode seems to be moving faster than a cheetah on a moving sidewalk, it's already time to prepare for this week's video shoot: "When I Grow Up" by the Pussycat Dolls. Or, as I like to call it, "The Most Abrasive Song of All Time." At this point, The Glee Project goes all America's Next Top Model on us and announces that the contenders will be dressed up as pop icons. Here's a quick rundown of who gets to be whom:
Michael = Elvis
Aylin = Madonna
Abraham = David Bowie
Blake = Boy George
Lily = Cyndi Lauper
Ali = Katy Perry
Shanna = Lady Gaga
Nellie = Britney Spears
Looks about right to me.
NEXT: An Ali conspiracy theory
5, 6, 7, 8, praise the Lord, there's a choreo session this week. In light of the disastrous dancing demonstrated in previous weeks, Zach warns, "If y'all embarrass me again… " He's not messing around. In fact, he's like two wrong steps and a contender's hissy fit away from a full z-snap. Get your s***t together, kids, and stop effing up. What, like it's hard? Maybe Zach's little pep talk worked, or maybe the editors have decided to use their powers for good once again, but the contenders seem surprisingly coordinated.
Onward and upward, it's video shoot time. Everyone looks dy-no-mite in their pop star costumes, and a few of the contenders really take their characters to heart. Michael, for one, has Elvis' hip-jutting saunter down, and Blake is borderline creepily good at portraying Boy George. What's your secret, Blake? "My brother is a homosexual," he says. Oh, okay then.
Poor little Southern Shanna. The wardrobe department has clad her in a replica of Lady Gaga's infamous meat dress, and after five hours on set, she's starting to smell a little ripe. Shanna's nausea is written across her face, but for some reason the mentors don't a) let her take the dress off for a minute or b) put her in the refrigerator. This seems a little like cruel and unusual punishment.
At the end of the day, the critics give all the contenders two thumbs up. "Ali has stepped up to the plate 100 percent," Robert coos. Then he and Zach high-five and man hug it out, because their little babies are growing up and did so good. But I may see the glimmer of a tear in their eyes, because despite the contenders' awesome celeb impressions, one of them will still have their hopes of starring on Glee dashed on the cold, hard floor.
Dun dun dun da dun! (That's the sound of a trumpet indicating that the results are in, for those of you who don't speak trumpet.) The hypnotizing glitter and sass of the Pussycat Dolls is but a mere memory, and Robert is ready to dish out some tough love. But first, the good news: Ali wins again! I have some thoughts on Ali and her success this week (or, rather, my friend has some thoughts which I am going to pawn off as my own), but first, who's in the bottom? Abraham (who claims not to be androgynous), Nellie (who still doesn't know what sexy is), and Lily (whose Cyndi Lauper impression was frightening) are all on the chopping block.
Here are my aforementioned thoughts on Ali. To put this into context, a few of my friends went to high school with Ali. Funny, right? Well, they did, and I was celebrating the birth of our nation a couple weeks back with said friends in their suburban New Jersey hometown, when the conversation turned to The Glee Project. "Ali's going to win," my friend confidently asserts. I was all, ????!!?, thinking I had inadvertently stumbled across some serious spoilers. But no, she didn't have any inside information, just a gut feeling and the benefit of years of friendship with Ali. "Maybe I'm just used to Ali winning everything because that's how I know her," my friend says, "but I just think Ali is going to win." Her theory, which after tonight seems to be pretty on the money, is that the producers have let Ali slip under the radar, not giving her much screen time until now, on purpose. They want to position her as the underdog and then have the mentors suddenly "discover" her. At which point, Ali surges to the top of the pack. I was skeptical at first, but after this episode, I'd say stranger things have happened. So, keep your eye on Ali.
NEXT: Who sings their final song?
I feel like the bottom three performances almost don't even need to happen — it's so obvious Nellie is going to be sent home. You just can't be in the bottom that many times in a row and make it out alive. Case in point: Charlie Bit Me. But here we are, at the last chance performances, once again.
First it's little, pretty, doomed Nellie singing Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One." She does a great job, duh. Ryan Murphy pats her on the back and sends her skipping on her way with barely a critique. She has totally just sung her swan song.
Next up, "I'm-not-androgynous-I'm-free" Abraham singing "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes and Adam Levine. This is, no joke, the best Abraham has ever sounded. And he put some serious work into choreographing his sassy number, which Lord of the Dance Zach Woodlee has got to appreciate as well. Murphy sets out to teach Abraham that not everything is a sexual threat — his words, not mine — and Abraham breaks down crying. Tears = safe on this show, so Abraham must be in the clear.
Last to take the stage is Lily singing Adele's heartbreaking ballad "Someone Like You." And break hearts Lily does. Zach's face is a glorious mask of pure, unadulterated joy and pride. I think they should have a Zach reaction box in the corner of the screen at all times, I just love looking at his face. By the end of Lily's song, there isn't a dry eye in the house. Which, thanks to the show's algorithm, means she is also safe. Oop — maybe I spoke too soon. Why are you arguing with the judges, Lily? You better shut up, or you might as well buy your own ticket back to Cape Cod (which actually sounds kind of nice).
I'm not going to pussyfoot around here, but rather skip straight to the not-surprising-at-all conclusion. Nellie is not called back. In all sincerity, I'm really going to miss Nellie on this show. She has an unbelievable amount of talent, and her humbleness was refreshingly likable. But, in the end, the judges were right: it's hard to root for someone who doesn't believe in herself. Good luck in your future endeavors, Nellie. I don't really think Glee was the right place for you anyhow.
[Image Credit: Oxygen]