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Glee and the GGCMC

When I was in the Girls’ Glee Club/Men’s Chorus, known simply as GGCMC back at Cleveland Heights High School, it was 1977 and I had my first starring role.

The musical was “The Music Man,” because in our school, the singing group put on musical shows.

My character’s name was Marian the Librarian and the love interest was Harold Hill, played by Michael Oster.

When I look at the hit FOX TV show “Glee,” it evokes such wonderful memories of my time doing musicals in high school and in summer stock theater. Of course, we were never as professional sounding as the characters on Glee. We also didn’t have the choreography, but they are professional singers and dancers portraying high school students with million dollar budgets. It’s a far cry from the reality I experienced at the GGCMC.

Though you ask my mom to this day, her revue was that I sang like a bird and totally captivated the audience. Of course, that’s one biased view.

An interesting plot twist in recent Glee episodes is the appearance of the female lead character’s mother, who had given the character Rachel up for adoption. She now is the coach of the main competition (Vocal Adrenaline) for the Glee Club’s New Directions. Lea Michelle plays Rachel, and picked up a Golden Globe nomination for best actress while the show itself won for best TV series-musical or comedy in its first season.

There is a fabulous repartee between the cheerleader’s (the “Cheerios”) coach  played by Jane Lynch (who I knew from “Two and a Half Men” as Charlie’s therapist) and the vocal coach/director of New Directions played by Matthew Morrison. Lynch was hilarious as the dry, sarcastic counselor to Charlie and his brother Alan on that show, and she plays a similar, but even more hilariously caustic character on Glee.

Back when I was in GGCMC, our main competition was the other singing group in the school, simply called the Cleveland Heights High School Choir. As I recall it was directed by a guy called Edward Batagglia while our group was led by Bill Thomas.

Bill took himself so seriously. I remember my friend Giff and I as well as then aspiring actress Sean Young all called him “Bill” in private, as a joke, although we called him Mr. Thomas in public. It was a different time.

Giff was an alto and I was a soprano and we stood on opposite sides of the risers when we performed. If we happened to catch each other’s eye while singing we would dissolve into tears laughing.

In comparison, the super serious competition of the New Directions group on Glee seems unrealistic to me. We just didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

I will say in closing that unlike the characters in Glee, who are so serious about their performances, Giff and I got reprimanded countless times from Bill for fooling around. He wanted us to act like professionals, and we weren’t. But it was just high school to us. It was where I got my first taste of what I wanted to do with my life.

If there is one criticism I have of the TV show Glee, they just don’t act like kids.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com.