This week, Lea Michele celebrates her 30th birthday and I couldn't let the occasion pass without wishing the starlet a happy birthday the only way I know how — with song. Michele is a celebrated Broadway and TV actress, currently starring in FOX's Scream Queens, but for many she will forever be remembered for playing Rachel Berry on the sensational smash hit Glee.
To mark this momentous occasion, I'm counting down Rachel's top moments from Glee's phenomenal six seasons. It was hard to narrow it down but I managed to pick ten standout moments for Glee's unforgettable leading lady.
10. Rachel Wins A Tony Award
The final episode of the series saw Rachel win a Tony award, which had been her dream since the very first episode. It was a tear-jerking, full-circle moment that made us realize that the show really had reached its conclusion — Rachel had fulfilled her life's ambition. It was a victory more than deserved for the woman who carried the glee club (and Glee in general for that matter) to several victories.
9. Taking On Kate Hudson's Cassie
When the New Directions graduated at the end of the third season, many were suspicious of how the series could continue. The show decided to do both options: Follow Rachel and Kurt to New York while also focusing on McKinley High with the new students. The decision was rather controversial and extremely odd as it felt like we were watching two completely different shows at times.
However, the best part of the series took place in New York where Rachel constantly battled with her narcissistic dance teacher Cassandra July (played by Kate Hudson). Rachel battled her in a dance/sing-off with Chicago classic "All That Jazz" and it was just fabulous.
8. Rachel Auditions For Funny Girl With A Glee Classic
Rachel constantly talked of how her big dream was to play Fanny Brice on Broadway in Funny Girl. When she heard about the revival of the legendary Barbra Streisand show, she decided that she would audition for the part — no harm in trying right?
After struggling over what song to audition with, she decided to take a chance and auditioned with a song that brought her joy and made her feel connected to her friends. Yep, you guessed it — "Don't Stop Believin'." It happened at a time when Glee had evolved so a nice little throwback like this reminded fans of why they fell in love with series in the first place.
7. Rachel Begins Her New York Journey
The third season's graduation was one of the most tear-jerking moments in television history as it left many fans wondering what would happen next with their favorite gleeks. What made it even harder is that Finn decided to let Rachel go so that she could go off to college in New York and fulfill her potential and follow her Broadway dreams.
In the heartbreaking "Roots Before Branches" musical moment, Rachel bids farewell to the glee club, Mr. Shue, Finn and Lima, Ohio before embarking on her life altering move that would see her arrive in New York.
6. Winning The NYADA Showcase
New journeys are tough, especially when you have to deal with a neurotic dance teacher who tries to trip you up at every corner. Despite all this, Rachel received the honor of performing at the NYADA showcase. Rachel realized early on that to defeat the competition she must rely on her biggest attribute — her incredible voice.
Stunning the audience with a rendition of Barbra Streisand's "Being Good Isn't Good Enough" the audience applauded and asked for an encore. Rachel obliged and further wowed the crowd with a vocally perfect rendition of Christmas classic "O' Holy Night." Goosebumps!
5. Rachel's Opening Night On Broadway
Rachel's life goal was to be on Broadway, but her dream was to play Fanny Brice on Broadway. That dream came true during the fifth season which saw Rachel finally get what she always wanted. Many of her glee friends travelled to see her make her Broadway debut.
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Unfortunately we never got to see her perform "Don't Rain On My Parade" on opening night, but we did see the magnificent "I'm The Greatest Star" and this performance proved that Rachel really is the greatest. It also goes to show that Lea Michele is the only real choice for Fanny should a real-life revival of Funny Girl ever occur.
4. Rachel Reflects On Her Glee Journey
The final episode saw Rachel perform her final solo — an all-new original song written by fellow Glee co-star Darren Criss entitled "This Time." The lyrics reflect Rachel's journey on the show to perfection — in fact, if Glee had been a fully fledged musical, this song would've been perfect for the character. The lyrics reflect how Rachel been searching for herself while chasing the spotlight. It was a goosebump inducing moment that really showed how far Rachel had come since the pilot episode. The beautiful lyrics mixed with Michele's stunning vocals provides for an unforgettable farewell to the character of Rachel — I still get chills listening to this one.
3. Rachel's Final Funny Girl Callback
Although the fourth season came under a lot of criticism for the split narrative storyline, there were a lot of stand out moments — specifically from the New York storyline and specifically featuring Rachel. Rachel chasing the Funny Girl role was definitely the best storyline of the fourth season and, although the Season 4 finale was a rather dire almost New York-less episode, the opening moments saw Rachel face her fears and compete for the role of a lifetime.
In her final callback for Funny Girl, Rachel performed Celine Dion's "To Love You More." It's a stunning moment and we realize here that there is no one else who could play this role — the emotion and Michele's voice convey how badly Rachel wants this and highlights how everything the character had endured on the show had been leading to this moment. "To Love You More" is spectacularly performed by Michele and remains one of my top favorite songs ever covered on the show.
2. Stealing The Show At Nationals
After spending much of her life dreaming about moving to New York and making it big on Broadway, Rachel suffered a setback during the third season when she choked at her NYADA audition. NYADA dean Carmen Tibideaux wouldn't give Rachel another shot, but Rachel refused to give up and convinced Tibideaux to come to the New Directions' Nationals performance.
Rachel stole the show during the glee club's performance belting out Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" which Tibideaux came to see. Tibideaux saw Rachel's ambition and raw vocal talent and this show-stopping performance gave her what she needed to allow Rachel to enroll at NYADA.
1. Saving Sectionals With 'Don't Rain On My Parade'
In the very first season, the New Directions were preparing for their very first competition performance as a glee club with the upcoming Sectionals. However, scheming coach and glee club hater Sue Sylvester leaked their setlist to the competing teams and the New Directions realized that they had no back up plan. Instead of sitting around moping, Rachel said she would take care of the ballad solo performance.
As soon as the New Directions were ready to hit the stage, Rachel launched into "Don't Rain on My Parade" — the notoriously difficult lead song from her favorite musical Funny Girl. The vocals are stunning and the moment goes down in history as the moment that everybody realized that Rachel Berry is the shining star of Glee. Moreover, it was the first of many moments where Rachel's voice saved the Glee Club and Michele's vocals on this performance are often praised.
Glee may be over but the impact that it had on television and fans of the series will live on forever. Despite the fact that the series ended only a little over a year ago, most of its cast has already moved on to great things with Grant Gustin in The Flash, Melissa Benoist in Supergirl, Chris Colfer is a New York Times bestselling author and Michele is currently starring on Scream Queens. Michele has a lot to show for her 30 years on this planet so far, but the legacy that she has left with Rachel Berry will live on forever. Keep shining bright Lea, we look forward to seeing Hester being crazy in the second season of Scream Queens.
Catch Lea Michele in the new season of Scream Queens beginning Sept. 20th on FOX.