It's been a long time since I've watched the ABC hospital drama "Grey's Anatomy." I liked a lot, at first. It was funny and fast-paced and often gruesome. I gave up on the show during the whole "Izzie and brain tumor-induced Ghost Denny" debacle. I've caught occasional episodes since then, but have rarely watched with the regularity of the first three seasons or so...
But this week's "Grey's Anatomy" was a special musical episode, revolving around the vocal talents of it's Tony Award-winning (for Spamalot) star Sara Ramirez, who plays Calliope "Callie" Torres. Callie and her partner Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) are leaving Callie's baby shower. Arizona (Really? That's her name?) has just proposed to Callie, but before Callie can answer, they rear-end a stopped truck and pregnant Callie is thrown through the windshield. Classic soap-opera stuff. But in 'Song Beneath the Song,' Callie, slipping in and out of consciousness, spends the episode hallucinating that she is not only watching from outside her body, but commenting in song on what's happening. And it seems she's also imagining her friends and colleagues bursting into song as they frantically try to save her life. Uncle P is a huge fan of the caliente Ramirez and her amazing voice and I made sure to record the episode just to hear her sing. And after having finally watched the show as my soup was simmering this afternoon, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that Ramirez was not the only talented singer among the cast. And I will get to the others in a bit.
The episode started strong, with Ramirez singing from outside her body, watching as she was brought in Seattle Grace's ER. At one point, the mostly incoherent 'real' Callie actually said the word "music?" as though wondering why people were singing to her. I could have done with less shouted ER jargon and more singing over powerful images, but the opening sequence was still damned powerful and the first of several to bring a tear to jaded Uncle P's eyes. I was also impressed with vocals by by Chandra Wilson (Avenue Q; Caroline, or Change) and Kevin McKidd (Dog Soldiers). But the episode's surprise revelatory performance came from Chyler Leigh whose rendition of
Faith Hill's Anna Nallick's "Breathe" was nothing less than stunning. I do hope that it was actually her singing without the benefit of digital enhancement. And while I actually like the Faith Hill Anna Nallick version of "Breathe," so I don't feel bad in saying I liked this version a whole lot more. The style and arrangement, combined with Leigh's powerful vocals, provided the emotionally charged makings of a chart-topping single.
Unfortunately, the conceit began to wear thin after that and the songs merely became superfluous reminders of how Shonda Rhimes sometimes tries a bit too hard in keeping her show relevant in it's 7th season. And just while I thought the show had jumped the shark several seasons ago, the buzz is that this is "Grey's..." best season in years. And why not push the show's envelope a bit and do a musical episode? Not all of what they tried worked, but much of it was effective. And all of the songs used had been used as part of the soundtrack of the series' first three seasons.
Here's an interview with Sara about the episode, in which she also praises Chyler Leigh's performance:
Honestly, I liked 'Song Beneath the Song' more than I thought I would and may very well start watching "Grey's..." again. ***1/2 (Three and a Half Stars).