As soon as Glee started getting wonderful musical guest stars, fans of the brilliant and hilarious Neil Patrick Harris were wondering if he'd ever show his handsome mug on the show. Then he not only agreed to sign on for an appearance, but in an episode directed by Joss Whedon, a man known for his love of musicals, his sense of humor, and who had worked with Neil before on a little project called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. If you haven't heard of that, stop reading this right now and check it out. See you in 45 minutes.
All set? Great. So NPH is Bryan Ryan, Will's former rival from high school who now hates everything to do with musical theater. He followed his dreams after Glee club and it all amounted to nothing. He's on the school board and wants to cut Glee out of the budget, but first he wants to tell the kids about how their dreams will never happen. Everyone does look pretty devastated, which is sad and all, but if they do want to be in the musical arts, they have to toughen up! Rejection is often and hard in that world, as Bryan Ryan obviously learned and couldn't take himself.
Will asks him to go out drinking that night, and Bryan admits he misses musical theater. He sneaks out to see musicals, and they sing "Piano Man" together. It must be said that it is wonderful to have the two sounding like they really are just sitting around singing together. All the music on Glee is recorded, and that means it sounds good, but sometimes it would be nice to have such natural moments. That's when you hear how talented the singers actually are, before people edit their voice and Auto-Tune.
Will persuades Bryan to try out for Les Miserables, and they both go out for the same part. They're fighting so the director tells them to sing a duet. They sing "Dream On" and it is a fantastic duet. Seriously, they both not only tear up the song but dance around the stage too. Girls watching this might have to fan themselves off afterward. When NPH does that high note at the end, it's bone-chilling. Bryan is excited about singing again and decides to cut Sue's budget instead. They have angry sex, which is hilarious, but Bryan gets furious when Will gets the part instead of him. Will gives him the part because Glee is more important to him, and the club is safe … for now.
In the second storyline, Rachel reveals she's always wanted to know her birth mother. She hasn't felt comfortable asking her fathers about it, which is a shame. Jesse St. James is back and still her boyfriend, and looking handsome as ever, and he says he'll help her. It turns out he knows exactly who her mother is: Shelby, the director of Vocal Adrenaline. He slips a tape she made into Rachel's 'mom' box, but she gets scared and won't listen to it. Shelby, aka Idina Menzel, who looks so much like Lea Michele it's scary, sent Jesse to "befriend" Rachel because she signed an agreement not to look for her daughter. Jesse might just actually like Rachel for real, and his goals do not seem nefarious at the moment if he really is just trying to reunite her with Shelby. We'll see where that goes. Finally Rachel listens to the tape and sings a duet with her mother to "I Dreamed a Dream." This was a fantastic song long before Susan Boyle got acclaim for it, and it is from Les Miserables, the play that Will and Bryan tried out for. Idina Menzel and Lea Michele … the two singers apart can cause me to shiver, but together? Goosebumps.
In the third storyline of the episode, Artie's secret dream was to be a dancer. Tina starts looking up all this information on the Internet about how new progress is being made for his legs, and maybe one day he'll be able to walk again. He has a dream where he dances to "Safety Dance," and it's fantastic. There was an extra on the Glee Volume 1 DVD set where they said that Kevin McHale is a great dancer, and the dance coach gets sad because he's in the wheelchair. He really does show his moves off in this one. He goes to see Emma to talk about the research, and she awkwardly but gently explains to him that even if there is a cure for his condition, it won't be for many years. It's sad, but bringing his hopes up too high would be even worse. He accepts this and tells Tina her tap dance routine will have to be with someone else. Then he mournfully sings "Dream a Little Dream Of Me" as she and Mike Chang dance together. Oh so sad.
This was one of the most solid episodes of the season so far. The songs were great, the three major stories all blended together well, and it furthers character arcs for Rachel, Artie, Tina, and Will. Whedon did a strong job as a director and hopefully he'll be back again. Also? NPH? Regular guest star? Who is with me?!
Next week is all Lady Gaga, with wild costumes that the singer offered them herself, and Rachel comes closer to finding her mother. Also, the third album from Glee came out on May 18, so fans of the music should check it out. Glee: The Music, Volume 3, in stores now.