It would be tough to find a more passionate fan of the musical-comedy television show "Glee" than Eduardo Marquez of Des Plaines.
Marquez, a 19-year-old Maine West High School grad, said that in addition to be being funny and entertaining, the show says inspiring things about the importance of following one's dreams, no matter what.
"'Glee' teaches that you don't have to be the kind of person that's in all the magazines to be a star," he said. "That's an important thing to hear, especially for someone like me, who wants to be a performer. I think the show has had a really positive influence on people, and I would absolutely love to become part of that."
Marquez was one of about 1,300 nervous-but-excited young people reaching for their own chances at stardom during open auditions for the second season of "The Glee Project" -- a reality-show competition that will grant a lucky star-in-the-making a multi-episode role on "Glee." The auditions began Sunday and will continue Monday at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Sunday's hopefuls, most of whom were in the 18-to-22 age range, came from all over the country, with a healthy concentration from Chicago and the suburbs. The mood in line was energetic and upbeat. The performers recognized the odds they face -- thousands of people auditioned for the first season of "The Glee Project" and just 12 were picked for the cast -- but they didn't let that dampen their enthusiasm.
"You just shut that out," Marquez said with a smile. "I'm very nervous, but I feel confident, too. I'm outgoing, funny. I can make people laugh. And I bring something a little different because I'm 100 percent Mexican -- I would love to be able to do some Spanish songs on the show."
Sunday was a first audition experience for Taylor Gaffey, 18, a St. Charles resident and a musical theater student at Millikin University in Decatur. Gaffey said she hopes her husky singing voice and preference for smoky Motown and jazz songs will help her stand out.
"I'm nervous but so excited to be here, too," she said. "My voice is a little lower than a lot of people might expect. I think that will be a plus for me."
Timothy Quinn, a 21-year-old Schaumburg resident, said this was his first audition since he tried out for "The X Factor" a few months ago, an experience that didn't go as well as he'd hoped.
"It was a little embarrassing, but I couldn't let that feeling affect everything else I do," he said. "I knew I had to get out there again. I feel good about this. I've experienced a lot of highs and lows in my life, which gives me the ability to play a character people could love and relate to."
The auditions required performers to choose a song from a preapproved list and sing at least 16 bars from it in front of judges. Some were then asked to perform in front of Robert Ulrich, the casting director of "Glee" and one of the key on-screen figures in "The Glee Project."
"I was happily surprised before the first season at the sheer number of interested people and the quality of their auditions," Ulrich said Sunday. "The interest was extraordinary, crazy. I'm excited about who we'll meet this second time around."
"Glee" revolves around the social misfits who make up the glee club at a Midwestern high school. The show, co-created by Mount Prospect native Ian Brennan, has become a pop-culture phenomenon because of its energetic musical performances and occasionally salty sense of humor.
Cody Kindle, 20, of Gurnee said he identifies most with the character of Rachel, the talented, driven but often self-absorbed glee club member played by Lea Michele.
"I like how determined she is," Kindle said. "I have that determination, too. It's always been my dream to perform, and I'm not about to give that up. I haven't had the professional training that some might have, but I think I bring the raw talent and the charisma."
After this week's Chicago auditions, open casting calls will be held in Nashville and New York City. Ulrich and his collaborators also will review thousands of online auditions before selecting a final cast.
Samuel Larsen, one of two winners of the first season of "The Glee Project," appeared at Sunday's auditions. He said he was sure the people in line were feeling a mix of emotions.
"I can relate to what they're going through, because that was me not too long ago," he said. "They're probably feeling a little intimidated, some might think this is their last chance. But you know what, you just have to go for it. You have to do it. I would much rather go on an audition and not get the part than never go out at all."
The upcoming season of "The Glee Project," which has not yet been scheduled, will air on the Oxygen network. "Glee" airs on Fox. For more information about "The Glee Project," go to thegleeproject.oxygen.com.