The paperback edition of "Theater Geek" will be available from Free Press. Read what Michele had to say in the book about her time in the Catskills below:
Name: Lea Michele
How you know her: In 2006, she created the role of Wendla in Spring Awakening Off-Broadway, and then opened the show on Broadway; later scored a best actress Golden Globe nomination for her work as the overachiever Rachel in Fox’s "Glee."
Summers at Stagedoor: 2000-2002
Memorable roles: “Pinball Wizard” soloist in The Who’s Tommy
You’d been in Les Miserables on Broadway as a kid, playing young Cosette. But then you came to Stagedoor in 2000—and you didn’t get a lead! Were you upset?
I’d also done Ragtime on Broadway. I went to school in New Jersey but was living in Manhattan. I was basically in Broadway shows from when I was eight years old on.
I didn’t expect them to automatically give me a lead role. I wasn’t like, “I’ve been on Broadway! Give me the lead!” I didn’t really care. I didn’t want the pressure of being a lead. I appreciated the normalcy of being in the camp.
Normalcy? I don’t think I’d use that word for Stagedoor. What did you audition with?
I sang “On My Own.”
It’s so funny. I thought I did a great job. Then, on the third day, we were sitting in the lobby. When they were going to announce the shows, Konnie [the head of the camp’s casting committee] came out on stage and said, “Raise your hand if you auditioned with ‘All That Jazz’ or ‘On My Own.’” I threw up my hand. And she said, “You should never audition with one of those songs. Those are the typical Broadway songs.” I felt so ashamed.
Why go to theater camp if you were already working? What did you take away from the experience?
I was uncomfortable with my singing. I was in the Our Time Cabaret—
The camp’s all-star touring troupe?
Yes. And everybody was so talented. I looked up to the older kids. Going to the hotels to perform? We felt so cool!
Did you have a solo in the Cabaret?
My second year, they needed someone to sing the solo to “Tomorrow.”
Yes. I remember being in the back of the room and I just raised my hand. I said, “I can do it.” I was a legit soprano. I’d auditioned for Annie in New York and never got it. They told me, “Your voice is too sweet.” I don’t know what it was about that moment. But I sang “Tomorrow” in front of the entire Cabaret and I discovered I could belt. I had a chest voice! My voice changed in that one minute, and I never went back. That was my turning point. It’s still one of my proudest moments. It’s really good. I have it on video.
You were born to be on "Glee." What was your first show at Stagedoor?
I was in a revue, Side by Side by Sondheim. Then I was in Tommy. I sang the “Pinball Wizard” solo. I remember looking up to the older kids. Julie Kleiner—she was Mrs. Walker in Tommy. She was totally confident with her talent. She was everything I wanted to be.
You really weren’t upset to not have been a lead at camp?
My third summer I was supposed to be in Sweet Charity at Stagedoor. I was supposed to be one of Charity’s friends. Then I booked a job in New York. It was the workshop for Spring Awakening. The camp said, “You have to come back!” I was like, “No, I have to do a real job.”
That was the only reason? Because it was a real job?
A job where I made money.
And I got to play the lead.
Speaking of Spring Awakening, your co-star in that show was Skylar Astin. He’s another Stagedoor alum. Had you been at camp together?
No, we just missed each other. I was at Stagedoor with Sebastian Stan.
From "Gossip Girl."
He was the cutest boy ever. He wouldn’t remember me. I was a lot younger. He wouldn’t have looked at me.