3 Chicago area wannabes compete on ‘The Glee Project’
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org June 4, 2012 9:34PM
Chalk it up to being in the right place — or plane — at the right time.
Francis Parker High School student Michael Weisman was on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit family in 2010. A nearby passenger spotted his guitar case and asked the Andersonville teenager if he sang.
“It was a totally random occurrence,” Weisman said. “I had no idea who he was.”
Turns out he was Robert Ulrich, casting director for “Glee.”
Ulrich had been in Chicago to attend open auditions for an Oxygen show called “The Glee Project,” where contestants would compete for a seven-episode guest-star gig on the Fox musical dramedy.
Weisman, who’s in all three of his school’s choirs and is part of the Chicago-based blues band Rob Stone and the C-Notes, wound up auditioning for Ulrich at his L.A. studio.
Being 17 at the time, Weisman wasn’t old enough for the first season of “The Glee Project.” Now, he’s 18 — and the youngest of 14 contenders duking it out on season two.
During the series’ 11-week run, the hopefuls work with mentors to sing, dance and act while the creative forces of “Glee” assess their performance. “Glee” cast members also drop by to offer their two cents. (Lea Michele makes an appearance in the season premiere.)
Each week, the three wan*na*bes who struggled the most compete in a last-chance routine to avoid getting cut by “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy. Murphy isn’t making his decision based solely on talent. He’s also looking for the person who will most inspire the writers charged with crafting a story arc for the winner’s “Glee” character.
Murphy liked last year’s contestants so much, he picked two winners: Damian McGinty, who played an Irish exchange student, and Samuel Larsen, who did a turn as a devoted Christian helping Quinn recover from her car accident. Two runners-up also were rewarded with shorter stints on the show.
This season’s crop of “Glee Project” contenders is a diverse bunch. Tyler is half black, half white, Jewish and transgender. Mario is blind. Paralyzed from the chest down, Ali has used a wheelchair since the age of 2.
Charlie Lubeck, 23, has spent his life on meds to control a severe case of attention deficit disorder. The 2007 Homewood-Flossmoor High School grad also has a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.
After studying acting at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Lubeck moved to New York to break into the theater world. His former drama teacher happened to be visiting and mentioned that “The Glee Project” was holding tryouts in New York the next day.
Lubeck decided to give it a shot. After several hours of waiting in a slow-moving audition line, he nearly bailed.
“We had ‘Lion King’ tickets,” said Lubeck, who ended up not using them. “I decided to stick it out in line. It was absolutely worth it.”
Aylin Bayramoglu, 19, tried out for the show during Chicago’s open auditions at McCormick Place. She was majoring in vocal jazz performance at Roosevelt University at the time.
“Singing professionally has been a dream of mine ever since I was born,” said Bayramoglu, who hails from a traditional Turkish family. The Muslim teen attended Catholic high school Loyola Academy in Wilmette, where she started the first female a cappella group, Nothing But Treble.
“I choked in the first round,” she said, referring to her “Glee Project” audition. “I was about to sing Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats.’ I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I was freaking out.”
Bayramoglu, who’s auditioned for just about every singing competition on television, eventually collected herself and tried again. This time, it worked.
A self-described flirt, Bayramoglu isn’t sure how her family will react to seeing her on the show.
“It’s going to be interesting,” she said. “I don’t know if they’re going to approve of everything. They’re old-school Turkish.”