Just Get Me There

James shares why the 'Glee' episode feels so special.

Here it comes: Spring, my favorite time of the year, when everything's new and fresh and promising. Outside my study window, the magnolia tree is exploding into magenta bloom under an azure sky -- and to top it all off, here comes Glee. . .literally and figuratively!

On the night of Glee's visit, our theater at Pace University was packed with 750 ebullient fans, front and center among them the master's degree candidates of the Actors Studio Drama School, as the stars of Glee paraded out on our stage -- Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Cory Monteith, Lea Michelle, and Chris Colfer, led by the series' co-creator Ryan Murphy.

They're all there, waiting for you on Bravo at 8/7C on Monday, April 9th. You've never seen anything like this episode -- not on Inside the Actors Studio -- and maybe not anywhere else. The episode is a non-stop cascade of revelation, confession, songs and dances -- on the screen and live on our stage.

Full disclosure: I admit to a bias toward this episode and these people and Glee because of the world from which I came to Inside the Actors Studio. It's precisely the world to which Rachel Berry, Finn Hudson, and Kurt Hummel aspire, and from which Lea and Matthew come -- the Broadway musical theater, they on the stage and I behind the scenes as the lyricist and book writer of two musicals, Nowhere to Go but Up and Sherry!

When my first musical opened on Broadway, I was only a little older than the characters in Glee, with dreams just like theirs. This is the account of my first opening night in my memoir "Inside Inside":

The show opened on a chilly November night at the historic Winter Garden Theater, where Jolson had sung and, in the years to come, Cats would play 7,485 performances. But on that night when my show opened, I stood alone at the back of the theatre, wrapped in a tuxedo and impenetrable gloom, dead certain that Nowhere to Go but Up would fail, deservedly, and slink off in the direction predicted slyly, if unconsciously, in the first word of its title.

As the couples hurried past my post at the rear of the orchestra, women in evening gowns, men in black tie (in the sixties, evening dress was de rigueur at musical opening nights), I had to fight the impulse to apologize to every one of them for my inadequacies, with which the poor innocents were about to be inflicted.

As the house lights dimmed to half, in sync with my mood, the survival instinct in me stirred. On similar dark occasions in my life, I'd devised a strategy for backing away from the brink by dividing myself into two quite separate beings, one who's in the mess, and one who isn't. By this admittedly schizoid means, I was, in theory, afforded a dispassionate, objective observer who could talk sense to me -- literally. Not aloud (which would constitute legitimate schizophrenia), but silently, sanely, patiently. Over time, I'd had some interesting colloquies with this alter ego -- and one transpired in the Winter Garden Theater that opening night.

"Listen to me," the Other Me said.

"I'm listening."

"Good -- you ungrateful son of a bitch!"

"Ungrateful . . . ?"

"If a genie had popped out of a bottle five years ago, and promised you that one night you'd be standing in the Winter Garden, with the orchestra warming up, and the cast throwing up, and the curtain going up in front of a houseful of people who dressed up, only -- only -- because you sat down one day and wrote, 'Act One, Scene One,' would you have said, 'Yeah, but it's gotta be a hit; promise me that or forget it'? Not a chance! You know what you'd have said? 'Just get me there.'"

On the instant, the hovering clouds broke and scudded away, and somehow on that dark November night, the sun shone in the Winter Garden Theater. My tuxedo nearly burst with the elation and good will, toward everyone -- even me! -- that was surging through me.

Nowhere to Go but Up failed, as I predicted, but a lesson was learned, and I passed it on in my book, and pass it on now to illustrate the incomparable lure of our profession. That's what Glee is all about, and that's what shone like a. . .well, a star. . .on the evening Ryan and the Glee cast came to Inside the Actors Studio. It explains why I'm so fond of this episode, and why I hope you’ll watch it and enjoy it.

As we say on Broadway, break a leg!

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Making History

James discusses the records 'IAS' is breaking and examines the amazing bond between Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

In my last blog I predicted that we were about to make history. Maybe not world-shaking history, but certainly history for Inside the Actors Studio, and perhaps for television.

And so it is coming to pass. . .

On January 9, on our Actors Studio Drama School stage at Pace University, we shot until 11 p.m. with George Clooney. Working at what was then record speed, we edited a two-hour episode and aired it January 31-- at precisely the moment when Brad Pitt was walking onto that same stage to shoot his episode of Inside the Actors Studio. Each of them sharing his life and life's work with our students for the first time, and each of them hitting the ball (to borrow a term from Brad's film Moneyball) out of the park. Ten days after Brad's live appearance, on February 10, shattering all our previous records, we will have edited his episode and he'll be on the air, matching George revelation for revelation, hilarity for hilarity, and perception for perception.

Each of the two evenings set several records -- for live audience, with lines snaking around the campus in the hope of gaining admission; for the guest's rapport with the students (each left at midnight when I finally had to tell them and the students, who would gladly have stayed with them all night, that early morning classes were looming); and for graciousness, charm, and warmth, in which they ended in a dead heat.

But the record that will be remembered longest by both our students and our viewers across America and around the world is the fact that within the span of ten days two of the most highly esteemed stars in the world can be seen on Bravo, virtually talking to each other as they approach the night when most observers believe one or the other of them will mount the stage to accept the Oscar as Best Actor.

The excitement and drama that will light up this year's Oscar night is there on our stage as they talk about their own work and the work of their friend, colleague, and competitor. When I finally asked Brad whether it was possible that each of them would end up voting for the other, he reflected for a moment, then observed calmly, "I would rather just recuse myself from voting altogether."

I suspect that George will do the same thing. This is a show of mutual respect that isn't normally associated with Hollywood. But it is par for the course with these two superstars and, in the view of our students, super human beings.

I won't reveal here the evening's most hilarious moments when I played a clip of George's claim that he was preparing a practical joke so diabolical that it could end Brad’s career, and Brad responded with the revelation that he had something in the works that would leave George' practical joke -- and George -- in the dust.

Tune in at 8 p.m. February 10 for all the revelations in this unique drama that is making TV history.

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