Mesa eighth grader Trevor Bowler is a “Gleek.”
The 14-year-old at Kino Junior High School was so inspired by the popular TV show “Glee,” he was encouraged to look for a local show choir to join.
He discovered Mesa’s East Valley Children’s Theater’s new choir, EVCT Bravo, which was started in January after a board member’s suggestion.
Now, Trevor is one of 10 young performers who sing, dance and act in short Broadway-style musicals.
“It’s a blast,” said Trevor, who is also in his school men’s choir and in Actors Youth Theater plays. “The shows are amazingly fun.”
The Mesa children’s theater is just one of many “Glee”-inspired opportunities that have popped up in the past year to capitalize on the show’s popularity. With budget cuts in performing arts at local school districts, young performers are searching for outlets to sing, dance and perform. And they’re also clamoring for the new camps, choirs and theater options.
“Glee” is an underdog tale of a ragtag group of high school kids who come together to perform in the school’s show choir. The group of cheerleaders, football players and theater geeks fight against the nerd stereotype associated with the club. They also battle to show other students and teachers the club should remain among the more popular sports and clubs, and form strong friendships with peers out of their normal cliques, all the way dealing with typical teenage drama.
The Chandler Young Actors Group hosted a weeklong spring break glee camp in March, and the camp sold out its 30 spots. The group is also hosting summer music camps and will have another weeklong glee camp in October, all held at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
Childsplay in Tempe is hosting its eight-week musical theater marathon this summer for the second year to accommodate the resurgence in the popularity of musicals. The camps have been so popular extra classes have been added, and 161 students have already registered for the summer theater program, said Beth Olson, director of education programs.
Three summers ago 200 kids would sign up for summer theater classes. That number jumped to 650 students last year. About 550 kids have already signed up for summer programs, and Olson said if this continues they’re expecting 1,000 young performers to be involved in more than 40 summer classes.
“We’ve seen a huge surge in popularity,” Olson said. “TV shows like ‘Glee’ and movie musicals such as Fame, Hairspray and Mamma Mia, along with the touring Broadway shows, have all contributed to the popularity.”
It’s not just young performers who are obsessed with “Glee.”
Michelle Mac Lennan, the assistant manager for the Chandler Center for the Arts, is also a “Gleek.”
“I wish I was in high school,” Mac Lennan said. “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to Broadway theater people ever. We love art being expressed in such a mainstream way. We love it.”
Alan Crawford is a huge “Glee” fan. A board member at the East Valley Children’s Theater, he “fell in love instantly” with the show and suggested starting a show choir at the Mesa theater.
“I thought it would be important to provide that opportunity, and the board fell in love with it,” said Crawford, 24, a Mountain View High School graduate. “I think it’s opened a lot of eyes.”
Crawford said the TV show is bringing together families and making it cooler to be in choirs.
“Everyone talks about dance and soccer games, but nobody says my kid is in choir or in glee club,” he said. “It draws their attention that we have extremely talented children and we just need to light a spark in them to show them that they’re really good and they need to perform.”
Jamie Fossenkemper, a South Valley Junior High School eighth grader from Gilbert who loves being involved in the EVCT Bravo show choir, said the television show is inspiring.
“It’s exactly what I like to do,” said Jamie, 14, who is also in her school women’s choir. “I have heard students in school more interested in acting because of ‘Glee.’ Watching ‘Glee’ inspires a lot of people because it’s fun to sing, dance and act at the same time.”
The show has also helped to bring more males out to try out for show choirs and the performing arts. In “Glee,” two of the main characters are football players who like to sing.
Ariana Ziskin, who is teaching the new EVCT Bravo troupe, said she was surprised to see three boys involved.
“I think it’s (the show) done a lot to put it out there in pop culture,” said Ziskin, 25, who also teaches music at Dobson Academy, a Mesa charter school. “All the sudden musical theater isn’t just for the nerdy kids. My kids (at Dobson) talk to me about "Glee." It becomes more accessible and it makes it something that’s okay to like.”
• Chandler Young Actors Group is holding a two and three-week summer music camp and an October weeklong “Glee” camp at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave. Information: (480) 782-2682 or chandlercenter.org.
• Childsplay is offering eight weeks of its summer Musical Theatre Marathon program at the Childsplay campus for Imagination and Wonder, 900 S. Mitchell Drive, Tempe. Information: (480) 921-5751 or childsplayaz.org.
• East Valley Children’s Theater offers its EVCT Bravo troupe and other performing opportunities. Information: (480) 756-3828 or evct.org.
• The cast of “Glee” is giving two live concerts May 15-16 at Dodge Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix. A second show was added due to popular demand. Information: (800) 745-3000 or livenation.com.
• New episodes of “Glee” will begin airing Tuesday on Fox.