Gleeks, StarKids and musical theatre enthusiasts all came together to pack Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium for Lea Michele and Darren Criss’ LM/DC Tour stop on Saturday.
As the duo’s band played the first notes of “Broadway Baby”, fans decked out in now-vintage Glee shirts screamed at volumes that could rival a One Direction audience. Criss and Michele took the stage and graciously accepted this adoration to begin an evening where modern met classic- and everyone knew all the words.
One of the most surprising results of the Glee phenomenon was the resurgence of showtunes and Broadway staples in popular culture. Criss and Michele, both classically trained, decided to bring this love of theatre (along with their many accomplishments and accolades) on a laidback tour meant to showcase their incredible talents. Both have had their stints on Broadway, television and even movies (with Criss’ most recent turn as Andrew Cunanan on The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story earning him a Primetime Emmy).
The pair spoke at length to each other and to their audience, gushing about their mutual love of showtunes and each other’s talents. Criss put his first bit of instrumental skill on display with a stripped back acoustic duet of “Suddenly Seymour”, an old Glee favorite.
The second act was all about Michele. With two albums of original music under her belt, she was able to incorporate songs like “Cannonball” into her set before diving back into her selected covers. Michele added “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the last minute “because this song makes me happy” and the fans agreed.
“I am a major Gleek,” she confessed to the audience with a smile. Her version of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” brought Gammage to its feet, similar to her turn on Glee. She also performed the acclaimed piano version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and P!nk’s “Glitter in the Air”.
Between songs, Michele sang the praises of her tourmate, lauding his musical abilities (“He’s playing guitar, then piano, singing, he’s winning Emmys…”) before bringing him back onstage for a duet of her original ballad “Getaway Car”.
Michele’s soaring vocals were incredible to hear, but Criss brought the rock and roll back to the show. He jumped right into Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup”, getting the crowd clapping with his enthusiasm and energy.
“I just wanna thank Lea Michele for being a fucking angel,” he said, showering her with compliments before continuing act three. The multi-talented singer-songwriter-actor-composer reprised his role of Glee’s Blaine Anderson with some of the character’s most popular covers, including a version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” that went all in on the soul.
Criss’ playlist ranges from Broadway to classic rock and everything in between because, as he says, “good music is fucking good music.” The variety didn’t deter the fans- they knew every word to originals like “Goin’ Nowhere” and showed the same enthusiasm for Broadway classics like “I Dreamed a Dream”. He also played a full band rendition of “Foolish Thing” from his most recent EP and paid tribute to Arizona with a cover of Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy”.
The cherry on top was the moment every longtime Criss fan was waiting for. The entire room sat on the edge of their seats as Criss requested silence for “Not Alone” and “Teenage Dream”, the cover that shot him from bit part to stardom. “Not Alone” has been on every Potter Musical fan’s playlist for over a decade and many fans were overjoyed to finally hear it live after so many years.
Criss brought Michele back onstage for a duet of “Shallow” before heading into the final act.
It was astonishing to see the cultural reach that these two have managed with their various projects over the years, and the genuine friendship they’ve fostered into a tour. Criss even wrote a song for Michele that she performed both in the last season of Glee and onstage in Tempe called “This Time” with Criss on piano.
The duo ended the evening with the lounge version of “Don’t You Want Me” before returning sans microphones for “Make You Feel My Love”. The audience was practically holding its breath, not wanting to miss a moment or break the spell of the evening.
The show was a beautiful marriage of classic and modern, with many people leaving in tears from seeing the duo’s considerable talents in person.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel