Broadway Meets Sitcom

People who claim that the musical is dead clearly have not tuned into any sort of media form in the past month. Fox’s popular television show, Glee, has taken America by storm. Centered on a fledgling high school glee club’s struggle to gain popularity, each episode is filled with both teenage and adult drama laced with chills and inducing musical performances. Not only has the show been going strong Wednesday nights, but songs from the show have also been among the top songs purchased on iTunes. Minutes after each new episode reaches an end, Facebook feeds and Twitter trending topics are inundated with the key word, “Glee.” Thanks to the show’s fame, the musical is far from being dead; it is very much alive and kicking.

Even with the show’s focus on musical theater, it may serve as a surprise that several of its stars have actually been borrowed from the Great White Way. Matthew Morrison, who plays Spanish teacher and glee club coordinator Will Shuester, has held prominent roles in the musicals Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. Both Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz, who play glee club members Rachel and Tina respectively, have recently emerged from roles in the Tony award winning musical Spring Awakening.

Transitioning between theater and television has always been a common occurrence for actors and actresses; fleeting roles on Law and Order are constantly mentioned in the cast member bios found in both Broadway and off-Broadway playbills. However, it has been a long while since musically inclined performers have been able to display their talents on the small screen as part of a television show. Not only does Glee call for acting skills that theater performers are used to exhibiting, but it also calls for singing and dancing skills that are not normally exercised anywhere else but in a live theatrical performance.

It is not only the primary cast members that have frequented the Broadway stage. Even in the early episodes of its first season, Glee has attracted some of the biggest names in theater as guest stars. The most notable guest star was featured in the most recent episode titled “The Rhodes Not Taken.” Kristen Chenoweth’s role as April Rhodes was anticipated by both television watchers and theater lovers alike.

Though many know her as Olive Snook from the television show Pushing Daisies, she is also known for several different roles on Broadway, including Glinda in Wicked and Sally in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Of course, Kristen Chenoweth was not the only Broadway star to grace an episode of Glee. Thumb-less “Acafella” member Henri St. Pierre was played by John Lloyd Young who won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role in Jersey Boys. Even Victor Garber, who played Will Shuester’s father, has a long, detailed history in theater.

Though Broadway and television have always overlapped at the edges, they had never been truly blended together. As the first season of Glee progresses, it will be interesting to see if the two spheres of entertainment continue to intermingle.