“Glee” co-star Lea Michele is bringing Broadway to prime-time television.
The show features choral renditions of pop songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and standards such as Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” Michele was featured in the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening” and, earlier this season, Tony-award winning actress Kristen Chenoweth put in a guest appearance (the pair performed a duet of “Maybe This Time” from the musical “Cabaret”).
The Fox TV program, which follows the adventures of a fictional high school glee club, recently went on break, and will return in April with new episodes. This week, “Glee” was nominated for four Golden Globes (the most of any TV show), including one nod for Michele. A DVD boxed set of the first 13 episodes is due out Dec. 29. (Fox is owned by News Corp. which owns the Wall Street Journal.)
Michele’s “Spring Awakening” castmate Jonathan Groff will be joining the cast as a member of rival glee group Vocal Adrenaline. Reportedly, Tony-winner Idina Menzel will be joining the cast as well, though neither Fox nor Michele will confirm it. (”Idina’s a really good friend of mine and I think that she’s incredibly talented,” says Michele.)
On “Glee,” Michele plays aspiring entertainer and relentless club-joiner Rachel Berry, a high schooler with “two Gay dads” and a yearning to burst into song. Her ambitious, endearingly-deluded character is a mix of Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick role in “Election,” Barbra Streisand, and Lucy van Pelt from “Peanuts.” Michele’s rendition on the last episode of “Glee” of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the musical “Funny Girl” was perhaps her finest moment of the season–a showcase for the character’s intensely personal need to be publicly adored.
Speakeasy talked to Michele by phone earlier this week.
Speakeasy: “Glee” is a relatively new show. What did you think when you were nominated for a Golden Globe?
Lea Michele: I haven’t even wrapped my mind around the fact that our show has become as popular as it has. The fact that it was nominated for four Golden Globes and I got a best actress nomination is just…absolutely amazing. We haven’t even completed our first season.
At the close of the first part of the season, you sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Were you intimidated going into that song knowing that it had been sung by Barbra Streisand?
“Funny Girl” is my most favorite movie of all time. Barbra Streisand is my idol. She is one of the greatest performers in the entire world. And that song is such a legendary song. But I knew I had it somewhere in me. The fact that ["Glee" executive producer] Ryan Murphy trusted me and gave me that opportunity is so incredible. And once I went in the recording studio and I sang it once through, it was really the first time I knew that I could do it. I had never sung the song before…when the episode aired, the song reached eight on the iTunes chart and stayed there for a couple of days. The fact that we re-popularized—if that’s a world–the song is so fantastic
I see in your Twitter account that you talked a bit about the Globes. Is that really you–”msleamichele”?
I noticed that a lot of the cast members on the show have Twitter accounts.
Everyone else on the cast was doing it, and I didn’t understand it. I’m not very technologically advanced. I’m totally not hip to that kind of stuff. Everyone was doing it and I just thought it would be a nice way for fans to get a nice insight on what our day-to-day life is like in rehearsing for “Glee.” Twitter is very intimate. I only twitter about work and things like that. It’s very fun to let people know what we’re up to and what we’ve done, especially now that our show isn’t coming back until April. If it wasn’t for Corey Monteith [who plays Finn on "Glee"] I wouldn’t have done it. He set up everything for me. He even came up with my Twitter name.
You tend to use a lot of exclamation marks in your tweets.
I guess I just have a lot to get excited about!
You mentioned the break. There was a break after the pilot aired. And now there’s another long break. What kind of reaction are you getting from the public to the wait?
We’re going to start filming in January, and we’ll film through April. We’re going to film the nine episodes that you’ll see starting in April….We released two [soundtrack] albums, we also have our DVD boxed set coming out of the first thirteen episodes, so I think there’s a lot out there for everyone to get their “Glee” fix until we come back on the air in April.
Have you given any thought to releasing your own solo album?
It’s definitely something I would love to do. Right now my focus is on “Glee” and my character Rachel Berry. I want to do these nine episodes and I want to make them as great as the first 13 were and I’m constantly in the studio working on “Glee” so I need to put my energy into the show right now, and if there’s ever, in the future, when some free time comes up, it’s definitely my first thought of what I’ll be doing with my free time.
You’re known for your appearance in “Spring Awakening.” Any thoughts on returning to Broadway?
“Glee” is really my main focus, but if there’s any free time over hiatus, I would love to come back to Broadway. It would have to be a really good show. “Spring Awakening” was just so innovative and new and challenging. I’d really want to make sure I’d come back to Broadway and do something that’s just as challenging and just as fresh. I’d also love to do a play. I’ve never done a play before—I did “Anne Frank” in Washington, D.C., for awhile, but I would love to do a play in New York City, I think that would be a lot of fun.