A Little More 'Glee'

Tonight's cuppa: decaf Barry's Irish breakfast tea

Like I said in this previous blog post, I've been on the case of Fox's "Glee" for a while. So, it's great that it's finally aired, and the folks and many critics like it fine.

And just in case you were wondering if this sort of show-choir thing only went on in the world of TV, click here to see what a real one looks and sounds like.

Since I know you're loving all things "Glee" at the moment, here's an excerpt from my syndicated Inside TV column for this week that features more from my interview with Jenna Ushkhowitz, who plays Tina...

JUST A GIRL WITH 'GLEE'...In Fox's new high-school musical series "Glee," which premieres its pilot after "American Idol" on Tuesday, May 19 (then returns to the schedule in the fall), Jenna Ushkowitz plays Tina, a stuttering Goth girl who blossoms onstage in her Ohio high school's glee club.

2glee_06-jenna-publicity_0909_lyF But on this April day on the show's sets at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Ushkowitz is not so much blossoming as hurting.

"My neck is really sore," she says, "because I've been doing head rolls a lot. My back and my neck ... I woke up this morning and went, 'Oh, no!' I've been sore, but that's OK. We've been dancing a lot."

In "Glee," the glee club is also a show choir, a phenomenon centered mostly in the Midwest and in California that combines choral singing with elaborate choreography and costumes.

Handel's "Messiah," it's not.

"First I was in shock (when I read the script)," Ushkowitz says, "then it started to sink in. When we found out that everybody had to sing for the audition, it was a really crazy thing. I sang 'Waiting for Life to Begin,' from 'Once on an Island.'

"I was definitely in shock, definitely excited, because it really felt special when I read it. It was different."

Different, perhaps, but singing and dancing are two things that Ushkowitz knows a lot about.

She began her show-business career at three, appearing in print ads and later on such TV shows as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "As the World Turns" and "Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards."

Along with touring the country with "The Broadway Kids," Ushkowitz made her Broadway debut at nine, in a revival of "The King and I." She's also been in "Into the Woods."

A class president in her performing-arts high school, she graduated Marymount Manhattan College in only three years with a B.A. in acting and a minor in musical theater.

While the glee-club kids in "Glee" are at the bottom of the social ladder, it wasn't like that when Ushkowitz was a teen.

"I went to performing-arts high school, so we all performed," she says. "There was lots of crying, singing and dancing through the halls.

"You had people singing for you, breaking into song every few minutes, from high school through college."

One thing she's had to work on is switching from musical-theater mode, in which all of your expressions are big and the voice is loud, to TV-acting mode, which is more minimalist in style.

"It's really hard," Ushkowitz says, "especially because, instinctually, for me onstage, you shoot and project, you're big, and you're always reacting.

"But here, you're on a stage, but you also have cameras right here, in your face. So you have to be a lot more aware of where you are, just trying to find that fine line and that balance."

Of course, when you put that many young people with musical talent in one place, and things are bound to happen.

"It's really positive right now," Ushkowitz says. "Everybody gets along really well, which I hope stays. With such a young cast, it's really tough; you spend so much time with everybody.

"But it's good that we all love each other, the cast and the crew. It's definitely a musical atmosphere, with everybody singing all the time. The hair and makeup trailer -- it makes it interesting for them."

Asked what kind of a girl Tina is, Ushkowitz says, "She's a rebel, but that's against her parents. That's against her life. When she goes to school, and she's with those underdogs and those people she calls her friends, there's a different aspect of her that really wants to come out and be happy and confident.

"She's working on it."