Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The weirdly ingratiating Stars Hollow: The Musical hits the “Summer” stage

Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

Give or take a “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” episode, we really haven’t seen too much of Stars Hollow in the off-season, so there are parts of this “Summer” episode that are kind of a revelation. Unfortunately, the titular girls at the pool shows the duo at their most insufferable. What’s with the body-shaming on back fat? What’s with the indentured servitude of small children? Should the other citizens of Stars Hollow be so grateful that the girls are there that they all line up to peel them a grape?

Similarly, instead of being gracious to everyone who, you know, expresses a kind interest in welcoming her return, Rory instead snaps “I’m not back!” at everyone. If only one of those people had shouted back, “Good!” At an almost-but-not-quite-as-snide level, Lorelai sneers at the town musical, but at least she gets called out by her fellow committee members. Rory and Lorelai both diss the thirtysomething gang and their parents, ostensibly because they don’t want to be lumped in with that pack. But honestly, there’s no need to be so rude about it. When people complain about Rory and Lorelai as characters, “Summer” unfortunately offers some prime examples. To the episode’s credit, however, the Daniel Palladino-penned Stars Hollow charm and some well-timed emotional conversations pony up and save the episode.

And about that musical: This episode definitely has some pacing problems. Palladino, as he is wont to do, turns up the Stars Hollow quirk to 11, but apparently had some trouble filling the 90 minutes. How else do we explain the full 10-minutes of stage time for (admittedly awesome) Sutton Foster and Christian Borle, augmented by an unnecessary Abba refrain? Even worse, the long montage of—let me check my notes. Yep, here it is, just wanted to make sure—delivering newspapers? In this brief revival, it definitely feels like this time could have been better spent than having Lorelai creep through a tai chi class. More Paris! And Michel!

Even though it went on for awhile, I’m kind of a sucker for Stars Hollow: The Musical. It could be my deep and abiding Sutton Foster love, or the fact that, as my colleague Caroline Siede pointed out on Twitter, the formerly married couple of Foster and Borle clearly work so well together. The songs started to grow on me after awhile. I think whether or not you enjoyed it depends on how much a theater nerd you are (guilty).

Continuing our dumbfounding exploration of Rory’s non-career from last episode, she calls her almost-married boyfriend and suggests that she just fly out to London the next day instead. Maybe there’s a frequent flyer plan I’m not aware of, but regular humans know that flying out of somewhere with less than 24 hours jacks up the price an amazing amount (New York to London: $2,400 instead of $700 with more notice), which seems like a ridiculous option for Rory if she’s as broke as she says she is. And why would Rory spend this time just mooning about Logan anyway, since that relationship is obviously not going anywhere? Logan’s admonishing, “C’mon, that’s not fair,” when Rory points out how messed-up their situation almost single-handedly undid all that goodwill that Matt Czurchy gained back in The Good Wife, which was considerable. Is Rory’s attachment to Logan a nostalgic throwback to Yale when she was on a somewhat better path? As she says to Lane, “I just need to be 20 again.” Don’t we all.


So as a loose-ends Rory returns to her roots and unsurprisingly picks up the mantle of her first read, The Stars Hollow Gazette, she at least gets a very welcome visitor. Yes, I have loudly proclaimed my unapologetic pro-Jess status, but giving pep talks to Rory is what he’s best at (as well as tossing out Lou Grant references). He’s the one who got her back into Yale, after all. So in this sea of unfamiliar figures (therapist Claudia as the understudy!), Jess is a welcome respite and again, one of the only characters talking sense, as his idea for a book is a good one. It also folds nicely into a bout with Lorelai, putting her at odds now with both her mother and her daughter.

Emily gets the short shrift in this particular season, limited only to a brief flirtation with Leland Palmer. Rory’s phone conversation with Emily seems to be everyone’s first realization that a woman who just lost her husband of 50 years must be a septuagenarian, and her befuddled state for such a force of nature is indeed unsettling. Even Emily seems to be getting bored of her DAR friends, which nicely puts her at a crossroads as well.


Lorelai, though, is the only one who realizes what she needs to do, inspired by her Stars Hollow: The Musical doppelganger, Sutton Foster’s Violet: “I am not unbreakable / I am breaking right now.” So she’ll set off on the Wild walk, as foreshadowed by her pool read: a completely out-of-character, slightly unreasonable plan, but at least it’s something. Violet’s “never or now” song could apply to each of our three Gilmore Girls, highlighting some lovely parallelism in this revival: Your crossroads can happen at any time, at any age. Life changes are never going to stop coming. And each time they do, we again will have to find a whole new way to deal with them.

Stray observations

  • If you liked Stars Hollow: The Musical, you’ve seen Waiting For Guffman, right? If not, please remedy this asap.
  • I haven’t talked about Scott Patterson enough in this revival, but in that final moment with Lorelai, his “Why?” was full of anguish. Maybe the best scene he’s ever done.
  • Lorelai, you weren’t the only one crying at the Michel conversation. Jeebus.
  • “I know nothing about musicals, but this is a fun musical!”
  • April is just as annoying in this incarnation as she always was. What’s with Lorelai pestering Luke over April’s expenses? Just because she doesn’t have a frequent-London-flyer trust fund? I guess Lorelai was wondering if she herself should chip in, but it was odd.
  • I am in binge-watching jail with so many shows right now.
  • Love how Lane and Zack have kept their musical ambitions alive. They played a great set at The Secret Bar.
  • Esther really loves that one filing cabinet drawer.
  • On the third go-round, I finally got that the arguing couple in the first scene of the musical then gets thrown back into the past to the earliest days of Stars Hollow. I agree with Babette, that guy is hot.
  • Sophie playing a Carole King song was a bit meta, right? And then she even got dissed! I got the chance to meet Carole King when a FarmAid was at my college, and she’s one of the only people I’ve ever asked for an interview. It was for my mom, who considered the Tapestry album her own personal soundtrack. So Carole King was super-sweet about it, just like you’d expect.
  • Sunday: My review of “Fall” arrives, but until then, please keep any final spoilers to yourself. Thanks! And thanks for reading, I’m really loving discussing this revival with all of you. Now, let the Jess arguments commence…