By Tom Comi
You have to wonder if Glee creator Ryan Murphy learned something valuable from the rise and fall of the High School Musical empire, because the brilliant producer is doing all he can to make sure his popular FOX hit doesn’t suffer the same fate.
As with any movie or TV show that revolves around high school students, there is an inevitable turnover with the cast. It’s already a stretch to have twentysomethings playing teenagers, so casting agents are lucky if they can get a few seasons out of a “kid” before he is donning a full beard. Sadly, this means that the characters played by current Glee stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Diana Argon and Mark Sailing will eventually have to move on to other things.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Murphy decided to hold open auditions for the new era of Glee and turn it into a reality show on Oxygen (Sundays, 9pm ET). And what we as fans get is a front-row seat to the singing, dancing, acting and choreography. To be clear, this isn’t just some stunt to milk the Glee franchise; it’s a preemptive strike to ensure that the franchise runs for many years to come.
The Glee Project started with 12 contestants vying for a seven-episode appearance on the hit FOX show, and we are now down to 10 after Bryce and Ellis were eliminated in the first two installments. Each performer is thrown into the proverbial fire to see if they have what it takes to make it, and they are sadly mistaken if they believe this contest is solely about finding the best vocalist.
“They have to remember we aren’t looking for the best singer, the best actor, the best dancer, ” said Robert Ulrich, Glee‘s casting director. “It’s about finding someone who the writers are inspired to write for. They need to be themselves and show us why they should stay.”
That’s easier said than done when they have very limited time to learn “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga or Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and it justifiably brings out the competitive spirit among the contestants. Much of the angst has been caused by the talented but blunt Lyndsay. “Man, Lyndsay gets on my nerves,” says Emily. “That girl is a phony, phony chick. And I know phony. Trust me, I know phony.” And Hannah adds, “Now that I’m getting to know Lyndsay a little better, my opinions have kind of changed. I don’t think she’s very nice. I think she’s mean.”
Good stuff. Even better is the mentoring the young men and women get from Glee‘s cast and crew. Choreographer Zach Woodlee, assistant choreographer Brooke Lipton, vocal director Nikki Anders and video director Erik White all lend their expertise. And stars such as Idina Menzel and Darren Criss have appeared in the first two weeks to mentor the young talent.
Only time will tell if any of the remaining 10 performers has what it takes to one day be the next Rachel Berry or Finn Hudson, but the process of finding that replacement has been a whole lot of fun so far. And when you throw in a few cat fights between fellow divas, it gets even better.
Credit: Tyler Golden/Oxygen Media