Matthew Morrison :: A Return to His Roots
Oh, Mr. Schuester.
How many of you can remember that distressingly handsome teacher back in Junior or Senior High School who was the object of a first crush? If memory serves, the one that made me go a little weak-in-the-knees was the boyish gym teacher who arrived during junior high it’s funny how those memories never dissipate, isn’t it? Though many of us were perhaps still in a little denial back then, the buzz began there.
Matthew Morrison is certainly that for many. And that is probably the understatement of the century. We’re talking about crushing on a global-level scale for this handsome and oh-so-gracious guy because of the phenomenon that is "Glee" - the popular show that showcases Morrison’s and many of his "students’ " talent, skyrocketing most of them into fame’s stratosphere.
I had the honor of meeting him briefly a few years back at a gala for The L.A. Center and can attest to his graciousness. And in a funny twist, during my research I realized I had seen him at Lincoln Center in New York in The Light in The Piazza playing the role of Fabrizio years back. Such a small world.
I STARTED OUR CONVERSATION BY MENTIONING THAT FLUKE...
That’s too funny. I love that about theatre, those types of coincidences. When you’re still kind of unknown, you can kind of get away with a lot and do a lot of work. People are kind of surprised to find out that it was you in the pieces that they have seen. I can’t do that anymore, I don’t think!
It must be a bit like old home week for you being back in Orange County.
Yes and I’m really looking forward to that concert. It will be filled with lots of friends and family. All my peers from back in the day, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Do you get back often?
I don’t go back to Orange County too often, though my dad still lives there so I go occasionally to have dinner with him. The only other times I go there are to work with the Orange County School of the Arts I attended. I do a lot of work with the kids there.
It was one of the biggest things in my life, being able to go to that school, it really set me up to be able to do the things I do and be where I am today. I feel like I have to give back to the kids there when I can. It was just high school, a sort of after-school program when I was there. Now it’s a full-fledged charter school; with a junior and senior high school program.
Is the concert reflective of the material from your album "Back Where It All Began?"
Yes, a lot of it is coming from there. I have been doing similar concerts all over the world with different symphony orchestras and it’s been an amazing journey. A little tiring, but only because of my schedule. I work all week long on "Glee" and then I run off on the weekends and do these shows.
For instance, tomorrow I leave for Phoenix, which is easier than others because it’s relatively close. But then Monday morning I’m on set with "Glee" at 7 a.m.
Being on stage and performing in front of a live audience for me is something that is just so exhilarating because that’s my true passion. It’s something that I have missed doing for the past six years since being on this television show. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t been an amazing ride being on "Glee," but in my heart I am a stage guy.
Tell me a little about what your show entails, what we can expect to see?
My idol has always been Gene Kelly, and I don’t think that anyone is really doing a great song and dance show these days. That’s the show that I’ve put together, paired with these great classic Broadway showtunes that we’ve all grown up listening to. Each of the songs have a special meaning to me in some way and I’ve woven a story together with some of my favorites. Things like "On the Street Where You Live," which is a song I have sung for just about every audition that I’ve ever had - even for "Glee." We do others like "Send In The Clowns" and also do this really cool "West Side Story" medley that’s kind of inspired by something Sammy Davis, Jr. did.
I love performing with a 60-piece orchestra behind me, it’s a whole new world that I hadn’t really experience before. I’ve done a ton of Broadway shows with an orchestra in the pit, but that is totally different because these days the most a Broadway show will have is around 14 musicians so having an orchestra is really amazing. Having all of those musicians on stage with me during the gigs is really powerful stuff.
Do you do any of your "Glee" repertoire?
I usually throw in something similar, sort of the same genre. I’m doing "Sway" (a 1953 mambo instrumental song by Mexican composers Luis Demetrio and Pablo Beltrán Ruiz), which I did on "Glee." I’m putting something together for the Orange County gig, a special something that’s kind of a surprise. It’s not from "Glee," but I’m kind of incorporating something in that style. I’m definitely bringing out my ukulele and playing a couple songs with that as well. It’ll be fun!
How about pulling out the "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella" number? That’s still one of my all-time-favorites from "Glee."
I do have "Singing in the Rain" in the show, but I’m not sure that water on the stage would be such a good idea.
[Are you working on t]he "Glee" finale now? Or are we about to get a scoop on your next project?
We are shooting right now but we’re not on the finale yet. We’re actually doing our 100th episode as we speak. We were up till 2 a.m. shooting last night, and I’m back there all day today.
It’s really cool right now because we’re bringing back some of the great guest stars who have been on in the past. Kristin Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow are back, it’s been really fun on set with them. They are both such wonderful ladies.
If you had to choose an ideal next role, what would you like it to be? Something similar to what you’re doing now or completely different?
Definitely something different: When I was doing Broadway, I would be doing a different character every year typically. I’ve been doing the role of Will Schuester for six years now and like I said earlier it’s been amazing. It has created a whole new international audience for me as an actor, so it’s been really great for that reason.
Honestly though, I am really looking forward to going back to Broadway, I am so ready to sink my teeth into a different part. There are a few roles that I am eyeing right now and talking to a couple different directors about. If I do a return to Broadway, I really want to do it right. I want it to be a special show that will do well and showcase me in a different light than what I’ve done on "Glee." I am making some big choices right now on what’s going to happen next.
That sounds exciting, I can’t wait to see your next move! I could so see you doing a revival of "Singing in the Rain," it would be such a perfect match.
There is actually talk of it coming to Broadway. There’s a production in London on the West End right now, they are thinking about opening it here.
I don’t think it’s ever been a Broadway production, has it?
No, it hasn’t been on Broadway, but they did create the musical currently in London. I have seen it there, it’s good, but I think it will need some fine-tuning before it gets to Broadway. It’s definitely something I would be interesting in doing; I would love to play that role!
I know it’s a big stretch of time, but where do you see yourself in five, maybe ten years?
It’s a long stretch and at the same time it’s not. It feels like life just flies by.
I guess I would have to say more of what I’m doing now, traveling back and forth between coasts and other places to entertain. I feel like I’m living my dream right now, so I would be very happy if I’m still doing the same thing in five to ten years. I would consider myself very lucky if I’m still making it a career and doing what I love.
I’m betting the world is going to open up for you in a new way now that you’ll have the freedom to explore.
Yes and I feel like the world is ready for something different, especially with the resurgence of music and musicals. Even on television, I think that people are definitely open to more things like that. I would love to be the next Gene Kelly, the next "song and dance man."
It’s going to be really interesting to watch what happens because of "Glee" and shows of its kind. There’s a whole new generation of viewers coming up with the experience of seeing that there might actually be a career in music.
You’ve got it!
Music and the arts have suffered so much over the last 20 years, I am hopeful that there will be a renewed interest.
I know, and it’s been hard to see that. I think maybe even with these concerts I’m doing, it will be mutually beneficial for both the orchestras and myself. It can be challenging to get younger people in to those performances. And with someone like myself or others who are out performing such as Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, I think it opens them up to a new audience.
Parents can bring their kids to shows and they can experience the orchestras, hopefully it will touch them in some way and they will want to come back for more.
Here’s to a bright future! Anything else you’d like to cover?
I just have one question for you... Are you coming to the Orange County show?
Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Fantastic, that’s all I need to hear!
Matthew Morrison performs with the Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall from Thursday, February 13 through Saturday, February 15. For tickets and more information call 714.755.5799 or go to pacificsymphony.org