The freshman year of Fox's Golden Globe Award-winning musical-comedy-drama phenomenon "Glee" has been driving toward the very vocal showdown that fuels the hit series' first-season finale Tuesday, June 8. Past guest stars Josh Groban and Olivia Newton-John return as two of the contest's judges.
It's been quite a road to the finals for faculty adviser Will "Mr. Schue" Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and New Directions, his not-always-merry band of music makers marked by everything from the Romeo-and-Juliet romance of ambitious Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Vocal Adrenaline singing rival Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff, previously Michele's Broadway co-star in "Spring Awakening") to an ever-present nemesis in take-no-prisoners gym coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), who is scarily enough the third regionals judge.
"It's such a cliche to say this, but we really have become a family," Morrison reflects. "I love these kids so much, and as both a teacher on the show and me as Matthew Morrison, it's been so awesome to see the journey they have had. There's the growth they've had on the show, but also their real growth as singers and dancers and actors. The finale is a culmination of everything we've been working so hard to build.
"(Filming it) was sad, but at the same time, there was a feeling of 'senioritis,' " adds "Hairspray" Broadway veteran Morrison. "We'd worked so hard, and the end was so close, we were all looking forward to the break."
It wasn't a break yet for the younger cast members, though, since they then had a four-city "Glee" concert tour. "I had to be careful about expressing my excitement," Morrison admits. "I didn't want to rub it in their faces that their work wasn't done yet."
A related CD -- the show's fifth -- will be released the day the finale airs, and the complete-first-season DVD is set for Sept. 14. That's good news for the devout fans known as "Gleeks," who gave relative unknowns including Cory Monteith (alias the show's Finn), Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) nationwide followings almost as soon as Fox previewed the pilot episode in May 2009.
Ushkowitz also had worked in "Spring Awakening" with Michele, but nothing prepared her for what "Glee" has yielded.
"I've been acting for 21 years, and this has just been incredible," she says. "I've learned so much. A lot of the good friends I stay in touch with are from college, where we were all pursuing open calls and auditions. Everyone has been so supportive and so happy for me. And they all love the show, which is wonderful."