With its teen stars regularly bursting into fully-orchestrated song and busting out perfectly-choreographed moves, Fox’s TV hit Glee is not necessarily the most realistic take on the high school experience. But Glee‘s sister show, the reality TV program The Glee Project, now in its second season on the Oxygen network, offers a real-life behind-the-scenes glimpse at how Glee takes talented youngsters and turns them into stars. By featuring the show’s casting director Robert Ulrich and producer Ryan Murphy making important decisions, The Glee Project reveals the ins and outs of casting for musicals.
While Glee is of course a TV show and not a Broadway show, many of the same principles apply since, like your average Broadway musical, Glee is searching for triple-threat performers (i.e. people who can sing, dance, and act) who are charismatic and possess that “special something” that makes them uniquely interesting. The first season of The Glee Project was largely successful, first gathering an impressive group of young talent via video auditions and then in-person auditions, and eventually whittling the finalists down to two winners who both co-starred on several episodes of Glee this past season. The second season is currently airing now and working its way to finding a winner.
While it would not be cost effective for any Broadway show to take on such an elaborate form of casting, the success of The Glee Project could easily inspire Broadway casting agents to try more video auditioning. Broadway casting is currently a rather insular process that often has an “outsiders need not apply” attitude. While this is often a sensible strategy, since it keeps casting directors from having to sit through multitudes of auditions from talent-free wannabes, it can also unwittingly keep away potential undiscovered talent.
As The Glee Project has found, accepting video auditions is a good way of plucking under-the-radar talent out of obscurity. If they can come up with an effective weeding-out process (which may just be as simple as hiring a couple of interns to pore through the submissions), Broadway casting directors may find this a worthwhile way of doing some of their casting, particularly when they are looking for young people who are not old enough to have moved to New York City to start pursuing their performing careers. Broadway-bound Motown the Musical is trying this method, having recently established a website to accept video auditions during their search for a pre-teen to play the young Michael Jackson onstage.
While it remains to be seen if The Glee Project affects the Broadway casting process, it certainly offers would-be performers some valuable tips on what casting directors are looking for. As The Glee Project reveals, it’s about more than just talent. Contestants who have proved difficult to work with, unadventurous, and unwilling to take criticism or direction have all been shown the door. So, aspiring Broadway babies, take note: watching The Glee Project could prove to be very useful for audition preparation.