Just Get Me There

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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