BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — For the creators of Fox’s most famous show, it’s not so much “Glee” as it is “Grit.” Essentially the cast and crew of the enormously popular series are able to conjure a movie musical in just one week.
Anyone who’s experienced dance, music or acting rehearsals knows that schedule seems impossible. The show makers agree there’s jaw-clenching pressure to get the job done.
“Every episode is eight days,” says costume designer Lou Eyrich. “And we get a script three, four days into it, so we basically have four days of prep and then start shooting, and then catch up a little bit in the next few days.”
Music director Adam Anders not only prepares the music, but also orchestrates it, another gargantuan job. “I think this is the most civil you will ever see us because we are always fighting for time,” he says. “We never have enough time, of course. But you gotta make it work.”
Anders labors an episode ahead of the others. “When they’re shooting, the music has to be done,” he says. He works with a partner in Sweden. “We arrange everything ... we take our cues from (co-creator) Ryan Murphy. ‘Do you want this to be a kind of ode to the original? Do you want a reinvention? What are we looking for here?’ We’re trying to serve the story, and we go from there.
“But, my whole thing is to kind of straddle the fence between what ‘Glee’ is — the inspiration and everything — and not going cheesy. And that’s kind of what I’m always trying to do. Because it’s a little bit of camp, but we never go too far. So when I do go too far, that’s the stuff you never hear.”
Choreographer Zach Woodlee has eight hours per dance number, which include singing, of course.
Murphy (who created and executive produced “Nip/Tuck”) says he was naive when “Glee” began. “We didn’t know what we were doing when we started. We were kind of making it up as we went along. But the one thing that really clicked for me is when we went on tour, which was instantly sold out, which was amazing, and all the kids were there, and they would come out. Some of them would have two lines, three lines, and they got these huge ovations, and they had their sort of mini fan clubs.
“And I felt instead of going bigger and overstuffing Season 2, which I think people would expect us to do, let’s go under it. Let’s really sort of dwell on a lot of these supporting characters like the Santana character, the Brittany character and the Mike Chang character and the Tina character. So we’re giving all those actors big storylines this year because I think people want to know about them,” he says.
“And last year because we were with (“American) Idol” in the second half of the season, I personally kind of blew it out. Like that Madonna episode had nine numbers, which was insane. So we’re scaling back a little bit and concentrating a little more on the stories, and now I think we’re going to do five or six songs, but that’s just because I thought we were learning as we went.”
Eyrich has the task of creating both the high school garb for the kids, as well as the fantastic costumes for the musical numbers. “It’s a dream job. I love my job,” she says.
“It’s incredibly chaotic. Some days you will hear me screaming through the halls ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and I come back loving it again. It’s really almost more of a challenge for me to dress them as regular high school kids than it is to create the fun, crazy costumes, to stay true to the reality, to keep them young-looking, and to make people want to watch the show and be inspired by it.”
When Murphy and co-creator Ian Brennan first thought of “Glee,” one of their inspirations was the movie “Election.” “I think high school shows work, and I think college shows do not, because I think high school shows are about firsts: first love, first kiss, first fights,” says Murphy.
“And one of the concepts of the show is when you are in a high school, at moments I think it feels like a suddenly bright light, spotlight hits you, and you feel very exposed, which is sort of a hyper-surreal place, so I think with that in mind, that’s why we do some of those moments.”
Now that “Glee’s such a hit, Murphy says songwriters are eager to have their work featured on the show. One such plea arrived unannounced. “It was in a package and it was sort of handwritten and it was two CDs and it said, ‘Hi, Ryan. I hope you would consider some of these songs for “Glee,” and then it said ‘Paul’ (McCartney).‘And I opened it up and I think that it was ‘Michelle’ and it had these huge songs ... I was gobsmacked. I grew up with that guy. So, of course, we are going to do something with — I don’t think a whole episode, but something with him.”
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