PHOENIX — School's out, but the "Glee" kids haven't stopped believin'.
The cast making up the popular Fox show's band of singing teens launched its four-city tour Saturday in Phoenix, anxious to bring the theatrics of a major network show to a relatively smaller stage.
While the show's battling adults, played by Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison, were not part of the stage production, their absence was filled by taped messages to the audience. After an opening act by the excellent dance troupe Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, Lynch took to the screens snarling that the night's entertainment was about to make the audience ill.
"You will be barfing," she promised.
It was the start of an evening that only a fan would appreciate. Casual or non-viewers who paid upward of $75 per seat surely wondered why they spent so much to see costumes mostly comprised color-coordinated street clothes, or a backdrop of bleachers made to resemble a music classroom. Or perhaps pondered why the set list seemed so disjointed.
The connecting spirit of the show was deeply rooted in fan appreciation, starting with a list of song favorites from the TV show and going all the way to the cast's dash through an ecstatic crowd as Lea Michele, in character as glee club co-captain Rachel Berry, belted out "Don't Rain on My Parade."
"This whole thing kind of feels like a big 'Thank you' to the fans because they have made the show such a success so quickly and so early on," Kevin McHale, who plays the wheelchair-bound Artie, told The Associated Press. "So this is like giving back."
But while the cast is happy to give the show's rabid fans, who call themselves Gleeks, what they want, it also served up reminders that actors are behind the characters. When Cory Monteith drums during Mark Salling's "Sweet Caroline," Salling announces the talent as Monteith's, instead of that of his character Finn.
It's a confusion revisited throughout, as the cast slips in and out of character. Heather Morris offers a few hilarious observations as ditsy cheerleader Brittany, but they're in sharp contrast to her expert dance moves.
Those impressed by the power in Amber Riley's voice also would be surprised that she sounds much softer, much sweeter in person. Her live performance of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" lacked the strength of her recorded cover, though it eventually showed up in the empowering "Bust Your Windows."
Live renditions of Chris Colfer's "Defying Gravity" and Jenna Ushkowitz's "True Colors" retained the poignancy and dignity of their televised counterparts. Ushkowitz's "Bad Romance" had the audience roaring (though most of the delight might have been for the bevy of co-stars, Colfer in particular, back-up dancing in Lady Gaga costumes).
But whether the fans notice the cast's vocals over their own echoing voices is another question. Some were so pleased to breathe the same air as their idols that they gleefully ignored a "Like a Prayer" that came in at several octaves too high or that rival club Vocal Adrenaline's performance was a masked song-and-dance routine with no singing involved.
For a show whose hit Journey cover famously asks viewers to suspend their imagination, the pricey admission ticket is a lot to ask for a glorified high school talent show. But for Gleeks, there's no pretending that they won't love their favorite show come to life.
For Phoenix high schooler Reiana Hernandez, 14, who waited four hours Saturday to buy just-released tickets, it was enough "just hearing their voices live, I think that's going to be the best."
The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, http:/ http://www.thelxd.com
Glee on Tour, http://www.gleetour.com