Hit show "Glee" spreads the joy with stage tour

Fri May 14, 2010 10:41pm EDT
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - It's six hours into the taping of the "Glee" season finale and the audience at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California -- made up of Facebook and Twitter fans of the show, some of whom have flown in from across the country just for the taping -- is getting restless.

Fueled by just Dixie cups of water and fruit, blood sugar is lagging, and patience with the overhead balloon lights, being tweaked by a millimeter yet again, is wearing thin. Actress Jane Lynch, who plays the obstreperous cheerleader coach/drill sergeant Sue Sylvester, comes to the balcony to answer some questions and keep the crowd engaged -- or at least awake. One fan asks her what has been her favorite bitchtacular "Sue line" from the script.

"Actually, my favorite line hasn't aired yet," Lynch says, "but it's one she says to Kurt, the gay kid. 'Loving musical theater doesn't make you gay -- it makes you awful.'" Au contraire, Sue.

Starting Saturday (May 15), the entire cast of "Glee" -- from Broadway vet Lea Michele, who plays lead ingenue Rachel Berry, to dancer Harry Shum Jr., dubbed the "other Asian" in the show's snark-a-minute vernacular -- will embark on a four-city, 13-stop tour. It represents a turning point for the show; in less than a year on the air, it has moved beyond the Twitter-fueled zeitgeist to achieve a rare showbiz trifecta, generating substantial income across three platforms: TV, recording sales and touring.

Still in its first season, the Fox series has sucked in young fans with its inventive mix of musical-theater brio, pop-chart savvy and outsider empathy. In an episode that Nielsen says was watched by 13.5 million viewers, Michele's lead performance of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" sold 87,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan; in addition, the stand-alone "Power of Madonna" soundtrack from the episode debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 98,000 copies. The show's first soundtrack sold 799,000, the second 594,000 and the best-selling digital track to date, the cast's version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," a show-stopper from episode one, has sold 730,000 downloads.

"I remember I talked to (executive producer) Dante Di Loreto, and (co-creator) Ryan Murphy and said, 'If all works well, we should see records in the top 10 and we should sell albums. And if all that works, we should do a tour,'" says Geoff Bywater, head of the music department at 20th Century Fox Television.


The "Glee Live! In Concert!" tour will travel for two weeks and hit Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Ticket prices range from $35 to $94, depending on the market. All five of the New York shows at Radio City Music Hall have sold out, Bywater says, and the fourth and final Los Angeles concert sold out in 30 seconds after sales went live. ("I've never even been to Radio City Music Hall before," says actor Kevin McHale, who plays the paraplegic Artie.)   Continued...