You wouldn’t expect the stars of “Glee” to be nervous about a little song and dance.
But that’s just how series regulars Blake Jenner and Melissa Benoist feel about putting on their first show together, along with some of their co-stars and friends from the hit musical comedy. The stars will come to Modesto for “One Night Only!” at the Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 22. The show is a fundraiser for Jenner and Benoist’s independent film, “Billy Boy,” which is being co-produced by Modesto native and Hollywood casting director Robert Ulrich.
“Nobody is more nervous that I am. I just don’t want to suck,” said Jenner, who plays Ryder on “Glee” and wrote “Billy Boy” last summer. “Putting together our own show is stressful in a fun way. You are worried because you want everything to be perfect. I’ve never really done this before, but it’s really exciting. We want to have a good time with everyone. We want to sing songs we have always loved and wanted to sing.”
Joining Jenner and Benoist will be fellow “Glee” castmate Alex Newell, who plays Unique on the series, and “The Glee Project” alums Lindsay Pearce, a Modesto native who was the first-season runner-up and appeared in two episodes of “Glee,” and Abraham Lim, who was on the competition show’s second season. Joining them will be L.A. comedian Nathaniel Stroud and all of the past Valley’s Got Talent winners, including Shelly Bort, Stop Motion Poetry, The Sensations and Francesca Heyward. Ulrich will host the evening.
The concert will have a variety show format with a mix of singing, dancing, comedy, audience interaction and video skits. Ulrich said the musical repertoire will range from classic standards from the 1920s to modern-day chart hits.
“I think it’ll be a really, really fun, incredible, and joyous evening. ‘Glee’ and ‘The Glee Project’ are like a family. They have remained very, very close friends,” said Ulrich who cast both shows. “Whether on ‘The Glee Project’ or ‘Glee,’ to feel like I am a small, small part of the beginning of what will be huge careers for all of them, that makes my job worthwhile and meaningful for me. And I am close friends with them. It’s like seeing my family succeed. ”
Also a family affair will be the “Billy Boy” production. The indie film is being produced by Ulrich and his son, Cooper Ulrich, with Jenner and his brother, Michael Jenner. Blake Jenner won the second season of “The Glee Project” and joined “Glee” in its fourth season along with Benoist and Newell. The trio are now all regulars in the show’s fifth season and expected to remain so on the series’ final season next year.
Jenner began writing “Billy Boy” last summer while on a trip to the Philippines with Benoist. The two began dating after they met on “Glee” and recently became engaged.
“He had showed me six pages (of the script) this past summer and I just knew automatically that it was something that was from his heart,” said Benoist, who plays Marley on series. “It is really different than what we had been working on in terms of ‘Glee,’ and that was exciting. And not because I am biased, but it’s just a really great script.”
The film is a drama about a troubled young man named Billy (played by Jenner) who meets and falls in love with a waitress (played by Benoist) and then attempts to better himself and his life. They’ve gotten creative to fund the $400,000 or so needed to begin shooting.
In November they launched an online crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter. The campaign exceeded its $100,000 goal in December. Ulrich said they’ve raised the amount needed to begin filming thanks to the Kickstarter and private investors, including Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa, who he said “generously gave” to the project. Funds from the Gallo Center show will go toward the production as well.
“It’s been kind of crazy and really cool to see how much support we received from fans of the show and other people who have been supportive,” Benoist said of the film project. “It’s also kind of nerve-racking. It has been a really big learning experience. This is something both of us want to do for the rest of our lives – creating original projects and putting in the work ourselves. It’s really rewarding.”