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George Randolph, co-founder of Show Choir Canada, at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Ont., on August 15, 2011. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)
George Randolph, co-founder of Show Choir Canada, at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Ont., on August 15, 2011. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)

Movies

Glee 3D: Yes, choir really is the popular kids' club Add to ...

This summer, The Globe and Mail’s Dave McGinn takes the pros to the movies – people whose real lives, professions and passions are flickering up on the big screen – to see where seasonal silliness and reality intersect. This week: Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.

Gleeks, rejoice! Your need for lovable high-school kids singing and dancing is being fulfilled by Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. But just how strong are the song and dance routines? Who has the best performance? And just why do people go nuts for this whole thing, anyway? To answer these questions and more is George Randolph, founder of Toronto’s Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts and co-founder of Show Choir Canada, which this year hosted its first-ever national championships.

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Has Glee had a big influence on school choirs in Canada?

Because of its phenomenal success, it’s changed the whole format of choirs in schools. Not only are they going to do chamber and classical music, but they’re branching off into musical theatre and pop, which is attracting young people big-time.

So choir isn’t lame any more?

Oh, no. No, no. Choir is far from being lame. It used to be that in order to have that appeal or star power in high school, you had to be part of an athletic team. But now the deal is, if you’re leading a show choir, you’re the big man on campus, so to speak. The beauty of it, the whole Glee phenomenon, is that it’s empowering young people of all shapes and sizes, nationalities, preferences. It’s making young people realize that everyone has a gift to share.

You look at the movie and the show and everyone loves it – moms, dads, sons, daughters, really little kids, teens, adults, every sort of person you could imagine. What is up with these people?

It’s the message. It’s about developing self-confidence, self-esteem. It’s about loving yourself and respecting others. These are very important values that in this day and age are definitely necessary.

How many times a day do you spontaneously burst into song?

I don’t spontaneously burst into song. But my students – every break they get a chance, you could walk down the hallways hearing them belt out a tune.

Who is the Sue Sylvester at Show Choir Canada?

I would have to say one of our judges, David Connolly. David is brilliant, and if you ask him for his opinion, he will tell it like it is. He pulls no punches. But at the same time he’s a very nurturing spirit.

Is the hope of Show Choir Canada, which launched in 2010, to seize on the interest in Glee and help choirs flourish?

The hope is to make this whole Glee phenomenon more prevalent in this country as well. We’re also trying to structure it more. And from my own personal interest, these are the type of performers we are looking to audition for our academy.

The performers in the movie are incredible dancers. Is that part of being in a show choir these days?

Hiring a choreographer is part of the deal. It’s not just a music director. It’s a music director and a choreographer. And a great choreographer is able to take an average person and make them look good.

When I think of the music sung by school choirs, I think of tunes that are about as cool as anything you might hear from a barber shop quartet. But in the movie the performers were doing all kinds of hits (for example, Katy Perry’s Firework and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way). Is it the same for school choirs in Canada?

Absolutely. They’re knocking it out with current pop contemporary music and classical works as well.

As someone so involved with show choirs and the performing arts, what did you think of the movie?

At first, to tell you the truth, I was apprehensive about coming to see this movie. I thought, “Oh, Glee 3D, what’s this going to be all about?” But there were some excellent performances in this movie. In particular was Lea Michele, who did the Barbra Streisand song Don’t Rain on My Parade. That was worth seeing the movie, to see this girl perform. I know she idolizes Streisand, but she made that song her own. She took it to another level rather than just mimicking someone.

Was there anything you didn’t like about the movie?

I felt that some of the choreography got repetitive at moments as far as some of the group numbers.

What did you think of the segments that explored the lives of fans?

I really liked the testimonials on how it’s not just a show but how the performing arts in general have changed their lives. I found that very interesting, and a very valuable lesson for young people to see.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn

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