A Unique Voice
by Jim Provenzano
Alex Newell’s voice is a gift; a generous, open, soulful vocal talent.
Although some may argue that his ability to easily belt out a classic diva tune on the hit TV show Glee has been upstaged by the various plot twists, to hear him live is to enjoy Newell’s talent in full.
Bay Area fans will get a chance at this year’s Pride Night at Great America in Santa Clara. Newell will perform four songs, and other talents include TV host Wendy Williams.
The Boston-raised singer and I chatted by phone as he waited for a flight home at Los Angeles airport to one of many singing performances this summer.
“Boston is my home,” said Newell with pride of his home town, where he was raised singing in performances, as part of church choirs, and even the Boston Opera House.
It’s all a thrill ride for the 20-year-old, who was only a junior in high school when he auditioned for The Glee Project, the reality show that rewards winners with guest spots on the Fox musical comedy hit Glee.
Newell’s competition and victory were so engaging, he was given the recurring supportive role as Unique, the show’s first transgender-identified character in an honor role of inclusive characters.
“It was an amazing experience,” Newell said of his work on Glee. “It was a point and time in my life, I was applying to college, although I always knew singing is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
And while becoming a TV star, his singing is what will continue, even after the high school-based Fox TV show winds up wherever its crazy story lines take Unique.
After the season cliff-hanger, we found out personal information about Unique’s cell phone habits. But what may happen is not known to the actor-singer (or if it is, he isn’t telling!).
“It’s a lot of work,” Newell said of the show. “They keep us on our toes. At the end of the day, who knows what could happen with this new character, because times are changing.”
Newell said he considers his fictive trans-kid and tries to keep it realistic. “I think, is this how a high school student would react if she or he were coming out?”
Sometimes, Newell gets personal seals of approval, as from one fan, who, according to Newell, “said, ‘I love your character; she helps be me be who I am.’ If I can just help one person, then I’m happy.”
But singing is definitely going to stay in his career. “I was always singing in church, since I was two years old,” said Newell. “I would sing whenever I could. If I saw a music show on TV, I would just join in. Music’s always been a part of my life.”
As an out gay actor, Newell said he’s particularly happy to perform at LGBT-themed Pride events. “I can do any event and interact with the fans; It’s really fun.”
Along with the Pride Night at Great America, Newell will perform at events in San Luis Obisco, New Jersey, and other cities. And, like the goals of a few of his fictional castmates, is Broadway in the plan for the vocal gem?
“Yes,” Newell said with conviction. “One day, it’s gonna happen, because I have an amazing team of agents.”
And he’s also got that amazing voice!
Enjoy these YouTube videos of Alex singing:
Friday, May 24: Pride Night @ Great America, Santa Clara
Looking for a little holiday getaway? The annual GLBT party at the East Bay amusement park is MCed by Pollo Del Mar, with DJed music and a featured live song set by Alex Newell (The Glee Project and Glee’s “Unique”), plus Wendy Williams, Phoenix Normand and Kevin Mikal. Cookie Dough brings The Monster Show drag fun, and DJs The Perry Twins, MC2, Shawn Perry and Kidd Sysko spin dance tunes. $40-$55. 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara. (408) 988-1776. www.CAGreatAmerica.com/PrideNight