October 20, 2013

'Glee' stars coming to Modesto for 'One Night Only' show

Three of the current “Glee” series stars will come to Modesto with area native and Hollywood casting director Robert Ulrich for a special concert Feb. 22 at the Gallo Center for the Arts. The show is to raise funds for a new independent film that some of the cast members are shooting and will feature music and a chance to meet with the “Glee” stars.

Cast regulars of the hit series “Glee” are coming to Modesto for “One Night Only.”

The special event Feb.22 at the Gallo Center for the Arts will feature music and a chance for fans to meet actor-singers from the popular Fox TV musical show. Appearing will be Blake Jenner (who plays Ryder), Melissa Benoist (Marley) and Alex Newell (Unique). Also taking part will be Modesto native and Hollywood casting director Robert Ulrich, fellow Modesto native and “The Glee Project” runner-up Lindsay Pearce and past local Valley’s Got Talent winners.

The show will help raise funds for an independent film project that Jenner, Benoist and Ulrich are working on together.

“This is truly a collaboration with Robert and all of us,” said Jenner, who spoke with The Modesto Bee recently in between shooting “Glee” episodes. “We were all trying to come up with an idea to help our film project. And we just wanted to have fun. So what better way to have fun than having a concert? We just want to have a good time; no matter the turnout, we’re excited. We’re just excited about jamming out at the Gallo Center.”

The concert is not connected with “Glee” but will feature several of its stars singing and performing in a variety show. Fans will have a chance to take part in red-carpet photos and a meet-and-greet with cast members with VIP ticket purchases. Jenner, Benoist and Newell all joined “Glee,” a musical comedy about members of a high school glee club, in its fourth season and continue to be series regulars in its current fifth season. It was announced last week that the show’s sixth season, airing next year, will be its last.

Before he joined the cast, Jenner was also a screenwriter. He wrote and will star in his first film, called “Billy Boy,” along with TV castmate and fiancée Benoist. The two met on the show and were engaged this summer. Jenner met Ulrich when he auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of Blaine on “Glee,” and they later became friends when he was a contestant on and ultimately won the second season of “The Glee Project.”

“(Ulrich) has been really great to all of us involved in ‘The Glee Project.’ We were a family by the end of it all. He was there for all of us. Then the scripts I had, I would show him. He was in love with them and wanted to help and be involved,” Jenner said.

Ulrich, his son, Cooper Ulrich, and Jenner’s brother, Michael Jenner, will serve as producers on “Billy Boy.” Robert Ulrich, a Modesto Junior College alum with a master’s degree from California State University, Stanislaus, has returned frequently to Modesto over the years for special events and to judge the annual Valley’s Got Talent competition at the Gallo Center. His wife, actress Kim Johnston Ulrich, is from Ripon.

“‘Billy Boy’ is a real family affair, which is what I love about it all,” Robert Ulrich said. “When figuring out various ways to raise funds for the film, something featuring singing seemed perfect, based on my background. And what better place than the beautiful Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, the town that I have always loved. To see my incredibly talented friends from L.A. perform, along with the Valley’s Got Talent winners, is super-exciting.”

Ulrich first became involved with the project when he read another of Jenner’s scripts, “Gap Year.” The film was slated to be directed by Ulrich’s son, Cooper. But it was put on the back burner when the “Billy Boy” screenplay was finished earlier this year. 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 redeem his life.

“Blake is a versatile actor – a genius comedian and an exceptional dramatic actor, and he is also a brilliant writer,” Ulrich said. “My passion has always been movies, even though I’m a TV casting director. So this is a dream come true for me, being involved in this.”

Through the concert, Ulrich and the cast hope to raise some of the approximately $420,000 needed to produce “Billy Boy.” The project also has private investors and will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds online. The Kickstarter effort will begin Oct.29 and will feature a variety of rewards for people who donate, including exclusive artwork by London-based storyboard artist Matthew Meadows, who worked on “Kick Ass,” among other movies.

If the project meets its funding goal, Jenner said it will begin filming right after production on “Glee” ends in May. The shoot is expected to last 24 days.

For the “One Night Only” concert, the performers will each pick their own material. Jenner said he plans to sing works by some of his favorite singer-songwriters, including Gavin DeGraw and Edwin McCain.

“I hope to see a lot of people at the concert. I think they’ll have a great time and load of laughs,” Jenner said. “We’ll all have a blast.”

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