‘Modern Family’ recap, review: ‘A Slight at the Opera’ is slightly familiar

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Ah, the school play! Back in the 1990s, "My So-Called Life" gave us a high school version of "Our Town," while "Grease" was the word for McKinley High's annual production on "Glee" last year. Heck, even "The Brady Bunch" gave us a historical high school show. (Peter wanted to play George Washington but got stuck playing Benedict Arnold in the thing.)

But leave it to "Modern Family" to one-up them all and go for the ultra-ambitious "Phantom of the Opera." Let's just say, high school costume budgets have gone way up since the Brady days.

We could have spent the entire 22- minute episode of "A Slight at the Opera" listening to the incredible -- and surprising -- singing voice of Luke (played by Nolan Gould). Seriously, this kid is a member of Mensa, and now this?

In addition to the high school hijinks, "Modern Family's" side storylines had us all over the place: Everywhere from a golf course to a psychic's house.

A salty Pepper

In this episode we finally see Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) man-up to his critical dad. It's a golf-off, and Mitch has brought out the big guns. As in, his plaid pants-wearing golf partner, Pepper (Nathan Lane), a pro on the green, who dishes lines like: "I like big putts, and I cannot lie." (All hail Sir Mix-A-Lot!) Let's face it, Pepper's salty commentary is always a welcome addition to this show. Speaking of guest stars, Fred Willard also turned up to reprieve his role as Phil's dad, Frank Dunphy.

Adventures in babysitting

A newly postpartum Gloria (Sofia Vergara) is running all over town doing errands, so she leaves baby Joe in the care of Claire. (Mitch and Cam's mouthy kid, Lily, is there, too.) Soon, though, teens Haley and Dylan (Sarah Hyland and Ried Ewing) are the de facto sitters. For a while, they play house nicely -- until they inevitably start bickering like an old married couple. Sure, we've seen wacky TV babysitting adventures before ("Full House" had a hilarious sequence that featured Jesse and Joey's first Olsen twin diaper change), but "Modern Family" takes another page from the "Full House" babysitting playbook when Dylan suggests taking Lily out for ice cream before dinner. Twenty-five years ago, Jesse and Joey served up midnight hot fudge sundaes for their babysitting brood.

Psychic sidekick

Alex (Ariel Winter) is Gloria's errand-running assistant, and one of the stops is to see Glo's psychic. While the skeptical teen throws false info out at the psychic to prove that she's a fraud, she stops short at blowing the whistle on her when a message from Gloria's dead grandmother comes through. Still, Alex has fun with the cat and mouse game, saying, "It's like Scrabble with Haley. After a while, you're just playing against yourself." Hey, at least this psychic didn't tell Gloria she's going to die this week, like Phoebe's girl did on the sitcom "Friends."

Cat's in the Cradle

Also prominently featured in this episode is the 1974 Harry Chapin tearjerker "Cat's in the Cradle," a song about a dad who missed all of his son's important milestones because he was too busy. Wake-up call time! The tune has all of the golf guys blubbering on their cart ride home. Kind of like the way Homer Simpson did in the 1991 "The Simpsons" episode "Saturdays of Thunder," when the National Fatherhood Institute put him on hold, and the sentimental '70s song was the background noise. Yes, this tune can definitely make grown men cry.

School plays, a wacky babysitting adventure, a psychic pit stop, and a retro revisit to a sad song? This "Modern Family" episode was slightly familiar, but in all the right ways.

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