Glee: The Billboard Cover Story

It's six hours into the taping of the "Glee" season finale and the audience at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.-made up of Facebook and Twitter fans of the show, some of whom have flown in from across the country just for the taping-is getting restless. Fueled by just Dixie cups of water and fruit, blood sugar is lagging and patience with the overhead balloon lights being tweaked by a millimeter yet again is wearing thin.

Actress Jane Lynch, who plays the obstreperous cheerleader coach/drill sergeant Sue Sylvester, comes to the balcony to answer some questions and keep the crowd engaged -- or at least awake. One fan asks her what has been her favorite bitchtacular "Sue line" from the script.

"Actually, my favorite line hasn't aired yet," Lynch says, "but it's one she says to Kurt, the gay kid. 'Loving musical theater doesn't make you gay -- it makes you awful.' "

Au contraire, Sue.

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Starting May 15, the entire cast of "Glee" -- from Broadway vet Lea Michele, who plays lead ingénue Rachel Berry, to dancer Harry Shum Jr., dubbed the "other Asian" in the show's snark-a-minute vernacular -- will embark on a four-city, 13-stop tour. It represents a turning point for the show; in less than a year on the air, it's moved beyond the Twitter-fueled zeitgeist to achieve a rare showbiz trifecta, generating substantial income across three platforms: TV, recording sales and touring.

Still in its first season, the program has sucked in young fans with its inventive mix of musical-theater brio, pop-chart savvy and outsider empathy -- in an episode that Nielsen says was watched by 13.5 million viewers, Michele's lead performance of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" sold 87,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan; in addition, the stand-alone "Power of Madonna" soundtrack from the episode debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 98,000 copies. The show's first soundtrack sold 799,000, the second 594,000 and the best-selling digital track to date, the cast's version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," a show-stopper from episode one, has sold 730,000 downloads.

"I remember I talked to [executive producer] Dante Di Loreto and [co-creator] Ryan Murphy and said, 'If all works well, we should see records in the top 10 and we should sell albums. And if all that works, we should do a tour,' " says Geoff Bywater, head of the music department at 20th Century Fox Television.