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'Glee's' Lea Michele channels Rachel Berry at the Tonys

June 14, 2010 |  8:05 am

Between ScarJo taking the stage (to accept an award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress for her work in "A View from the Bridge"), Jay-Z and Beyonce in the audience, and a staged kiss that bucked conceptions of sexuality (nope Sandra Bullock wasn't involved -- it was between Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes), this year's Tony Awards felt oddly similar to last week's MTV Movie Awards. You almost expected the "Twilight" cast to make an appearance, but even without Pattinson and Co., it was a night that showed the increasing overlap of theater with film, television and pop music. The point was driven home when "Glee's" Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele -- Broadway babies turned TV stars -- took the stage to perform.

The two eschewed a duet, and potentially creepy teacher-student connotations, for back-to-back numbers. Morrison performed "All I Need Is the Girl" from "Gypsy," but it was Michele who got the diva moment, reprising "Don't Rain on My Parade," which she sang on "Glee's" fall finale. Michele's Tony rendition was powerful and poised, but it didn't quite live up to her Rachel Berry rendition.

As she did on "Glee," Michele started the song from the audience. Intense arm movements figured heavily in both performances. On "Glee" (watch that version here), she favored intense, double-arm thrusts toward the ground, that say "Hello world, Rachel Berry is here and she's a comer." On the Tonys, she went with a series of balletic single-armed sweeps to declare that Lea Michele had been doing this for years and will be doing it for many more. Her clothes carried on that theme; on the show, her twirling, knee-length black dress with red sash emphasized her girlishness, while at the awards, her floor-length cream-colored gown was all womanly sophistication.

If you can overlook the obvious lip-synching (and if you're a "Glee" fan, you already have), the "Glee" version was more powerful, more affecting, and, dare we say it, more heartfelt. All of which is to say that we're looking more forward to the second season of "Glee," than we are to a "Funny Girl" revival, whose producer has said that he's considering Michele for the lead. 

-- Hailey Eber

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