Hometown: Tenafly, N.J.
For Fans Of: Wicked, High School Musical, Freaks and Geeks
Listening to Lea Michele gush over her new role in Glee—Fox’s much-hyped new series about a high-school musical ensemble—is eerily similar to witnessing the jazz-handed optimism of her character Rachel Berry, a teenaged vocalist with a scorchingly sunny disposition. In fact, Michele openly admits that playing the diva-in-training doesn’t require much acting at all. “I definitely have a lot of Rachel in me—her level of projection is pretty much the same in a small classroom as it would be on a Broadway stage,” she says. “She’s big, she’s bold and that’s what I love about her.”
Glee’s creator Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) must have loved the same thing about Michele, who spent the last 14 years performing in Broadway shows including Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof and Spring Awakening. And her pitch-perfect performance in Glee’s pilot episode already has many positing the show as the next wave of a mainstream musical-theatre renaissance, sparked by High School Musical and American Idol—which is fine by Michele. “I’d hate to get political with the state of the economy, but I do think that people just want to be entertained,” she says. “And they want to hear singing.”