Jane Lynch talks ‘Glee’ finale, show at Birchmere

September 25, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — If you’re bummed that “Glee” is ending this Friday — with an emotional two-hour series finale on FOX — here’s something to lift your spirits.

The show’s star, Jane Lynch, is coming to Virginia to perform at The Birchmere on Tuesday, March 24 and Wednesday, March 25. The live show is billed as “Broadway with a twist,” featuring a five-piece band and Kate Flannery, who played Meredith the drunk on TV’s “The Office” (2005-2013).

“She’s a friend and we’ve been singing together for decades,” Lynch tells WTOP. “We’re doing all sorts of different songs, lots of different forms. We’ve got some obscure jazz stuff, an obscure Irving Berlin tune, some show tunes that we’ve turned on their ear and hopefully some hilarious patter. It’s a fast, fun, furious hour, which is the way I like to do it.”

The live show marks a return to her stage roots.

“That was the beginning of my career, cabaret and sketch … That’s where I started at Second City,” Lynch says. “I never thought I wanted to go back to theater. The thought of doing a live show was no longer like a ticklish thing for me. And then I did ‘Annie’ on Broadway and it all came back to me. I loved it and I got the bug again, and that’s really what lead to me doing this cabaret show.”

While performing theater in Chicago, she landed a role across Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive” (1993), which was being shot in Chicago and provided her first big break into movies.

“I kind of lucked into this role. I didn’t audition for it or anything. For some reason, the casting person, who saw me in the real-live ‘Brady Bunch’ on a sh*tty little stage in a garage in Chicago, thought I might be good as the lab technician.”

Ford asks Lynch’s character for assistance in finding the mysterious “One-Armed Man.”

“He was a real pro. He was really nice to me,” she says. “He took me into his trailer and we kind of reworked the scene, because he didn’t like the way it was written. … It was a very satisfying, kind of a peak experience for me back then.”

Soon after, Lynch starred in Christopher Guest’s “Best in Show” (2000), which popularized the mockumentary style later employed by “The Office,” whose star Steve Carell joined Lynch in Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005), which is celebrating its ten-year anniversary.

“It was a very small world at that point,” Lynch says. “Steve (Carell) is a Chicagoan too. … We were at Second City at the same time, and Kate (Flannery) was there as well. So for Steve it was his first star turn, and he had just shot ‘The Office’ pilot, so he didn’t even know that was going to become a series, much less a hit. … But that was a big year for Steve. It was a big year for me, too.”

Not only did “Virgin” make stars of Lynch (“Glee”), Carell (“The Office”) and Apatow (“Knocked up”), it also launched Seth Rogen (“This is the End”), Paul Rudd (“Role Models”), Jonah Hill (“Superbad”), Elizabeth Banks (“Hunger Games”), Kat Dennings (“2 Broke Girls”), Romany Malco (“Weeds”), Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”), Gerry Bednob (“Walk Hard”) and Kevin Hart (“Top Five”), not to mention established stars like Catherine Keener (“Capote”) and Leslie Mann (“Big Daddy”).

A decade later, the film’s star-making genesis makes it the “Caddyshack” of this generation, more important than “Old School” (2003), “Wedding Crashers” (2005) and “The Hangover” (2009).

“It kind of started this whole thing for all of them, including me, of this trajectory of a particular kind of comic film that was loosely scripted, a lot of improv and ‘the best joke wins,'” Lynch says. “Even though there were people who were considered the stars in the film, it was very ensemble feeling in the film. … That just kind of started a trend, and it lead to some TV shows that way, too.”

Which brings us full circle to “Glee,” a show that earned Lynch an Emmy and Golden Globe as the memorable authority figure Sue Sylvester.

Lynch says she’s sad to see the show go.

“It was the last three days that were really hard,” she says. “It was very sad and it was also really fun. Everybody laughing uncontrollably, crying uncontrollably, it was full of emotion.”

The emotion was particularly strong for this cast, which bonded even more after the 2013 death of rising star Cory Monteith, who was the real-life boyfriend of co-star Lea Michelle.

“It was like a family, and it really showed at the end there,” Lynch says. “Everybody was in tears.”

At one point in the finale, the show jumps ahead five years to see where the characters are in life. When the final credits roll,  it will wrap a network hit that created a Rydell High for a new generation.

“It inspired people to explore music as a means in television and film, and I also believe it impacted kids a lot,” she says. “People tell me that the amount of kids auditioning for the school musical in some places has gone up because of people’s love for ‘Glee.'”

Lynch also thinks “Glee” inspired her to return to own love for musicals.

“I got to do a couple songs on ‘Glee’ that were really fun, and that got me back in touch with how much I loved to sing. So definitely I think that lead to my desire to get back on stage to do ‘Annie’ and then do to this (live) show. … I have not been to Alexandria or The Birchmere, so I’m really looking forward to that. … It’s a nice, intimate venue compared to where we’ve been playing in. … It’s very invigorating and it’s joyful. It’s when I’m my happiest. It’s really, truly when I’m my happiest.”

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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