19 January 2007

Open Up and Say Tra Laaah

Last night was the long-awaited (by metros like me) musical episode of Scrubs. And just like Dawn Summers, I wish I lived in a world where people routinely and spontaneously broke into song. I guess it would take a massive aneurysm or a demon to make that dream come true, though.

Guest star Stephanie D'Abruzzo from Avenue Q suffered from the aforementioned aneurysm in her temporal lobe which caused her to hear singing (and see dancing) when people spoke. Ironically, the songs she heard and sang herself were penned by the Avenue Q guys. What are the odds of that?

Each of the songs was a winking tribute to a classic (though I'll have to re-watch a few times to get all the references,) and I'd guess that even the anti-musical crowd will have gotten one or two of them. Clever lyrics, particularly in "Everything Comes Down to Poo", smoothed over some of the rougher spots - Zach Braff's voice being the 40-grit sandpaper of the night.* In contrast, Johnny C's voice isn't anything to write home about, but he's still a trained and accomplished stage actor who sings well enough. Nonetheless, most of his singing was isolated to a G&S-style number while Zach howled away. This is, I imagine, how Matthew Broderick sounded before the months and months and months of voice lessons he took daily in order to play J. Pierrepont Finch in the mid-90s revival of How To Succeed...

Speaking of that revival, I'd have liked to have seen some different stunt-casting. D'Abruzzo's voice is fine, and she's got the Avenue Q association, so I understand why she was present. Still, it'd have been a nice time to see Megan Mullally return to Thursday night on NBC. Her voice is significantly better than "fine".

The numbers served character and plot, as they should in all good musicals, with some developments having (presumably) long-lasting impact being introduced in song. That the writers were able to pull it off without a single fantasy sequence was impressive. After a rough start to this season, the show's found its groove again. For creator Bill Lawrence's thoughts on this ep, the show's groove, and its future, check out this great interview with TV Squad.

The biggest disappointments for me were from two of the superior voices in the cast. Donald Faison held back a lot in his man-love tribute duet (as well as "Poo") so as not to overpower Zach and Sam Lloyd's Ted didn't get a showcase for his beautiful tenor. His few lines in the Judy Reyes+company number just didn't satisfy. Otherwise, I had a smile on my face and a tap in my toe throughout the episode.

*I don't watch American Idol. I gather there are worse performances available there.