Lea Michele is back on Broadway. The star of Glee and musical-theater veteran is filming the May 24 season finale of the Fox smash inside the Gershwin Theatre, where Wicked is performed eight times a week. Her costar Chris Colfer has joined her on stage for this particular scene, in which their characters, Rachel and Kurt, sneak onto this hallowed ground. It’s an appropriate location for the pair, who duetted on Wicked’s signature song, ”Defying Gravity,” early in Glee’s first season. This time they tackle another tune from the musical (we won’t ruin the surprise for you spoiler-phobic Gleeks).
In between takes, Michele splays out on the stage and checks her iPhone. Meanwhile, Colfer, an admitted Wicked superfan, wanders around excitedly like a kid in a toy store. He slips backstage and opens trap doors. ”For him, I think it really meant a lot,” says co-creator/exec producer Brad Falchuk, who also directed the NYC-set finale. Colfer even gave Falchuk an education in Wicked 101. Says the producer, ”He was very sweet about it, and he talked me through it. I’m still a little confused, but he really tried his darnedest.” For Michele, the shoot was a fantasy come to life. ”It was always my dream to get to play Elphaba on stage every night,” says the actress. ”I was very close to stealing one of Elphaba’s brooms.”
Glee fans will be equally thrilled by what the producers have in store for this epic finale, in which New Directions travel to the Big Apple to compete in nationals. Over the course of a whirlwind week of filming, the cast and crew shot at various New York landmarks, including Times Square, Lincoln Center, and Central Park. Many of these locations will be seen in a major musical number that finds the cast singing a mash-up of Madonna’s ”I Love New York” and Frank Sinatra’s ”New York, New York.” Falchuk says that filming in Manhattan allowed for some expansive shots of the city. ”We’re [normally] either shooting inside a soundstage or we’re shooting in Los Angeles, pretending it’s Ohio,” he says. ”That means it has to get very small. You can’t get too wide because you might catch a palm tree. So being in New York was like, ‘Hey, man — go big and go wide!’ ”
Filming at the exterior locations also gave crowds of Gleeks a chance to catch their favorite cast in action. ”I’d never seen New York like that before,” says native Michele. ”New York is known for such anonymity for actors. To see all of our fans come out and support us like that, it was overwhelming.” Unfortunately, the stars also attracted the likes of some aggressive paparazzi. ”They always knew where we were and where we were going,” says Falchuk. ”They’d always get there first, and it was always the same dudes. I think by the end of the week it was a little bit of pressure on the actors.”
So what can fans expect from this episode? For starters, the return of Cheyenne Jackson and Charice, who play Vocal Adrenaline’s coach and star vocalist, respectively. Also look for a cameo from musical-theater icon Patti LuPone, who runs into Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel at a restaurant. And Matthew Morrison’s Will Schuester will have a dramatic solo in which he sings ”Still Got Tonight,” one of the songs off Morrison’s own debut album. ”It’s very reflective,” Morrison says of the performance. ”He’s kind of faced with a decision of whether he’s gonna be on Broadway or stay with the kids and keep going down that path. There’s also a lot of emotions about his relationship with Emma and the possibility of giving up that.”
Meanwhile, Finnchel fans will be excited to hear that Rachel and Finn have quite the night out together in the city. ”I have an epic date with him,” says Michele of the sequence, which takes the pair through Central Park and the West Village. ”Even I was melting inside every time I saw Cory in that suit with flowers. He does take her on this fabulous day, this amazing date. It’s every girl’s mini – romantic comedy in one Glee episode.” Michele also reveals that the nationals performance will feature more original music. How will it all end? Not surprisingly, Team Glee won’t say. Teases Colfer, ”I will tell you this: All the characters have major dreams come true in the final episode.” Adds Falchuk, ”I think that at the end, everyone will hopefully feel real good.”