Time to Go back to School for Gleeks

“Glee” stars Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale.

Get ready “Gleeks,” it’s back to school for Glee. New students will be roaming the halls ofOhio’s McKinley High, which is like any school anywhere in the country — only filled with talented kids who burst into song at the drop of a high note.

Now starting its fourth season, Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox, the musical show filled with comedy and lots of high drama has been a bona fide cultural phenomenon, and made high school glee clubs the coolest extra curriculum activity. But we can also give credit to Burbank’s own JohnBurroughsHigh School’s Powerhouse Choir, which was way cool before the show hit the airwaves, and Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy has said he was inspired by them.

After some characters graduated at the end of last season, Glee will follow both the kids who are left behind, and those who are making their way in the world. InNew York, Rachel (Lea Michele) has a rocky start at NYADA and struggles to please her demanding dance teacher, Cassie (guest star Kate Hudson). She also meets Brody (Dean Geyer), a handsome upperclassman. What about her romance with Finn (Cory Monteith)?

Back at school, the members of New Directions compete amongst themselves to become the next star of the glee club. During open auditions, a fresh crop of students is introduced, including Marley (Melissa Benoist) and Jake Puckerman (Jacob Artist), Puck’s (Mark Salling) half-brother.

A role on Glee has been the biggest break for every cast member. Chatting with them at Fox parties and events, the performers are not shy about giving the show credit for helping them as well as helping many kids who look to the show for inspiration.

Lea Michele says, “The experience of being on this show remains amazing. It continues to offer inspiring stories and reintroduces old songs that no one would ever think that this generation would enjoy. From Broadway, to pop tunes that go back decades, or the hottest current hits, it’s awesome.” Kevin McHale (Artie) agrees, “We get the most exciting scripts that we can’t wait to see how the scenes unfold. They are always surprising us with what life throws at you unexpectedly.” Amber Riley (Mercedes) reports that everyone supports one another because, “When you’re around people who are extremely talented, your performance gets better because you challenge yourself.”

Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), who has been performing since she was a toddler, says, “We are so lucky that we have the most dedicated fans, and we love them. They are obsessive in a good way of wanting to be a part of the show by following our stories.” And Dianna Agron (Quinn) remembers life before Glee, “struggling to stay in the acting profession, not knowing when my next job was going to come along. And now it is unbelievable knowing how many lives the show has touched.”

Making the most of the opportunities that have come his way, Chris Colfer (Kurt) was busy before he returned to the Glee set at the end of the summer. He wrote, produced, and stars in an independent coming-of-age comedy Struck by Lightening set for a December release. Also he wrote a children’s book, The Land of Stories, which was released in July. Chris says he is still very much committed to Glee “because that’s where I established a fan base. I don’t think any of my other projects would have taken off if it wasn’t for Glee. I’m very conscious of making that fan base happy.”

The hottest dancer in the cast, Harry Shum Jr. (Mike) told me this summer he fulfilled one of his fantasies and went skydiving. And a newcomer to Glee this season is Melissa Benoist, who has been named one of the “Fresh New Faces of Fall TV.” Playing a sweet-16 sophomore Marley Rose, Melissa says she got a frozen slushy thrown in her face the first day of filming, which is how bullies greet Gleeks. And in addition to having Oscar-nominee Kate Hudson joining the cast for a six-episode arc, Emmy-winning Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica Parker will be among the guest stars for the fourth season of Glee.