A ‘Glee’-ful Future

Photo Courtesy of Oxygen

Coming off the heels of the swine flu epidemic last fall, “Glee” Fever swept the nation as teenagers and adults alike swarmed to their television sets to get their weekly fill of singing and dancing. This summer, however, an even larger entity has hit the U.S. But what could be bigger than singing and dancing teenagers, one might ask? Reality television!

The Oxygen Network recently debuted its very own version of “Glee” known as “The Glee Project.” Brought to life from the producers and casting directors of “Glee” itself, this reality competition pits talented young actors and singers from across the United States, and other English-speaking countries, against one another for the prize of a seven-week arch on the hit show “Glee.” From the product of thousands of live auditions and Internet auditions, casting directors selected the top 12 contestants who represent an eclectic cross-section of society.

Each week, contestants perform an assigned song in front of the head casting director and a special “Glee” guest star. The best overall performer wins a one-on-one session with the guest to give them the upper hand in that week’s group performance. Then the contestants record their parts for the final song with songwriter/producer Nikki Anders, and learn the choreography from the lead choreographer Zach Woodlee before recording the music video. After the performances, three contestants are chosen to have “last chance” performances in front of the director of “Glee,” and one is sent home each week.

The contestants in week one each devised a character that they would best portray in the seven-episode arch on Fox’s “Glee”, which they thought most embodied both their talents and abilities. From sassy and sociable to sexy and heart-breaking, the top 12 contestants put much thought into the character that they were “most likely” to be.

Interestingly enough, huge ambivalence about the show arises from these characters that the contestants have chosen. They’re talented dancers and singers, each with their own strengths just like in “Glee.” However, only some of them are talented enough as actors to portray the hilarious and clearly contradictory personas they have established for themselves.

Take, for example, Matheus Fernandes. Standing at under five feet tall, Fernandes is a shrieking rocker with a knack for awkwardly stripping and crying like a baby when he doesn’t get his diva ways. He somehow thinks that he can act as a suave, personal trainer/muscle head, but with the tears and diva attitude, it seems like he took the wrong hormones to bulk up his physique.

Other contestants took the more honest approach and are staying true to themselves rather than playing a character. Here, there are striking examples of true raw talent and people that audiences can relate to, instead of the fake personas that the other contestants project.

Cameron Mitchell has a raw and edgy voice that seems like he would belong in a hugely famous indie/alternative band. His Christian morals, geeky attitude, Texan background and what we’ll call an eccentric fashion sense make him a clear favorite for the show. He bares his soul in his performances, and although he has to continually prove himself to the judges, he is a contender to be reckoned with.

Although the show is supposed to bring one young star out of obscurity and into the limelight, one of the contenders has already shone in the limelight for quite some time. This writer’s hands-down favorite is the charming Damien McGinty: a Dublin, Ireland native with an entrancing accent who has traveled with the worldly famous Celtic folk song men’s group Celtic Thunder since the age of 14. Damien is the show’s only non-native American to compete, but his talents and almost hypnotizing personality make him a force to be reckoned with.

Week after week, we wait to hear the soulful and sassy dialogue, as well as the wonderful performances of the “Glee” stars we have come to know and love. But thanks to this new brand of extreme drama, America can fall in love with new characters Ń which seems appropriate because the likes of Finn, Quinn, Darren, Rachel and the rest of the “Glee” cast can’t stay in high school forever.

Rating: 4.5/5