Meet Glee's real Mr. Schues

 

 
 
 
 
Glee returns to Global and Fox Tuesday, Sept. 21.
 

Glee returns to Global and Fox Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Photograph by: Handout, Fox

CENTURY CITY, Calif. - The hours are long; the tantrums, mercifully, are short. They are the unsung heroes of Glee, the music men -- and woman -- who pick up Glee's emotional beat when the words end.

No one outside the Glee set knows their names, except for a handful of Gleeks -- obsessive devotees of all things Glee.

Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and virtually anyone associated with Glee behind the scenes on television's most lyrical, musically ambitious drama will tell you, though, that without choreographer Zach Woodlee, costume designer Lou Eyrich and music producer Adam Anders, the show would come to a grinding halt.

As Glee prepares to raise the curtain on its hope-filled, anxiety-driven sophomore season -- Glee returns Tuesday on Global and Fox -- Woodlee, Anders and Eyrich are huddled together, sharing program notes and deciding what, if anything, they can do to top the sight of Jane Lynch's cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester channelling her inner Material Girl in last season's show-stopping recreation of Madonna's iconic music video "Vogue."

They know their work is cut out for them, but they think they have it nailed down.

The season premiere, "Auditions," will pick up where last season left off, with a musical variation on the theme that every day you live is an audition for something in your life. The second episode, on Sept. 28, will revolve around pop icon Britney Spears and her strangely symbiotic, spiritual relationship with Glee's Dutch-born exchange student and cheerleader Brittany, played by Heather Morris. The Oct. 5 episode, which Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy predicts will be Glee's most controversial yet, will focus on the issue of faith, and will show Glee's young ensemble talking about what God means to them, individually, spiritually and emotionally.

For Eyrich, stitching together Glee's costumes -- which may involve anything from high-school cheerleader outfits to ensembles for those show-stopping musical numbers to Sue Sylvester's leather fantasies -- is a 24/7 affair.

"It's a dream job -- I love my job -- but it's incredibly chaotic," Eyrich admitted, in a rare moment of down time. "Some days you'll hear me screaming in the halls, 'I can't do this anymore!' And I'll come back loving it again."

Eyrich says there's no such thing as a typical week on Glee. That said, she added with a rueful laugh, a typical week begins with a concept meeting with Murphy and that episode's script writers. They go through the entire episode, scene by scene, discuss what's possible and, more frustratingly, what isn't possible, then decide what a particular scene should look like overall.

Murphy and choreographer Woodlee then find out which songs music producer Anders was able to clear, then Woodlee draws a basic blueprint for the choreography.

Eyrich says he then gets together with the choreographer, and they argue.

"Will this work? Will that work? How about this shoe? How about that dress? Is this a tearaway? We try to work together, to put something together that's coherent, makes sense to the story and looks good."

"Try" being the operative word. Anders admits the process is chaotic, but it works for Glee.

"I definitely throw out a lot of stuff that not even Ryan (Murphy) has heard," Anders said. "I'm like, 'Wow, that sucks. Let's start over.' But I find we're under the gun so much that instinct takes over. There's really no time to second-guess. And, more often than not, it's pretty close to what Ryan was thinking from the beginning."

An episode takes roughly eight days to shoot, starting from scratch. Eyrich says she rarely sees a script until three or four days into the process. Anders usually works an episode in advance of the others, so he can nail down what songs are legally available. Even so, that's not a lot of time to smooth over the finer details.

As a further complication, some episodes may feature as many as half a dozen full-blown musical numbers. The record last season was 10. Fortunately for Eyrich and Anders's sanity, the average number is closer to two.

Anders doesn't just arrange music clearances. (Some artists are more cooperative than others. Coldplay initially said no, then saw the show, reconsidered and are now wholeheartedly on-board.) He also pens the arrangements, with his music partner Peer Astrom, who's based in Sweden. Glee has gone international.

"Once again, we take our cues from Ryan," Anders said. "'Do you want this to be an ode to the original? Do you want a reinvention? What are we looking for?' We try to serve the story, and we go from there."

There is stress, Anders admitted, but nothing Glee's behind-the-scenes team hasn't been able to handle, so far.

Woodlee says he's usually given no more than eight hours to go over the vocals and dance moves for a specific musical number with the cast members. Anders says he's often given no more than an hour for each cast member to go over the vocal inflections on a particular song.

"This is the most civil you will see us, because we're always fighting for time," Anders said. "We never have enough time. But you gotta make it work."

Woodlee says the Glee cast members have grown by leaps and bounds, literally and figuratively, since the show's inception.

"In the beginning, it was definitely about trying to get them to work together as a unit," Woodlee said. "We would put together the best singer and the best dancer for the song, and just try to make them look as one. I used to joke -- I still do, in fact -- that I'm the real Will Schuester, because I'm always saying, 'We gotta get ready for nationals.' In my world, it's about making sure we get the work done in a day, but pushing it a little bit further each time. And they keep getting better."

So far, too, there have been no attitude problems or ego trips from Glee's young, overnight sensations.

"There's no time to get a big head," Anders said.

And they all laughed.

Glee returns Tuesday, Sept. 21 on Global and Fox at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Glee returns to Global and Fox Tuesday, Sept. 21.
 

Glee returns to Global and Fox Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Photograph by: Handout, Fox

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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