Matthew Morrison is a quadruple threat: His résumé includes acting, dancing, singing and songwriting—but the Broadway star is best known for playing Will Schuester on the TV show Glee.
Morrison will be performing at the McCallum Theatre on Thursday, March 21.
During a recent e-mail interview from London—he was unable to speak on the phone as his tour took him to Europe and Asia—Morrison discussed his stints in Broadway musicals such as Hairspray, South Pacific, Finding Neverland and others.
“Performing on Broadway, to me, was the big stage that I was preparing for years in advance,” Morrison said. “When something is your passion, I believe there’s no room for fear. I took that mentality into each role I was fortunate enough to attach myself to. There was a lot of pressure when I was offered the role of Link Larkin in Hairspray, but I’m thankful for that, as it prepared me for my biggest challenge yet, and that was The Light in the Piazza. All I can do as an actor is prepare as best as I can, in order to deliver the best possible performance. … Luckily for me, I feed off of the energy in the room, and I truly believe because of that, I was able to handle the pressure of performing on Broadway, even early on in my career.”
His 2015-2016 performance in Finding Neverland was well-received by audiences.
“Finding Neverland was a true pleasure for me throughout the process,” Morrison wrote. “From the beginning stages of watching the tryout runs at A.R.T. in Massachusetts, to working with Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus during rehearsals, all the way through my last show in January 2016—there was an unspeakable energy that lured me to performing each night. There’s always a little bit of wonder about how the audience and Broadway community will interpret a musical of this kind, but I truly believe that this production was special in its ability to connect with audiences of all ages. I, like many others, have always had an attachment to the story of Peter Pan, and I think that alone was enough (of a) reason to deliver each night.”
One of his earliest performances on Broadway—back in 2000—was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“That production was my last supporting role in theater, and it prepared me a lot for what was to come,” Morrison said. “A Broadway show is demanding and challenging to any artist, in my opinion, and our job is to make sure it doesn’t seem that way when we perform. The story is entertaining in whatever production it’s told.”
When Glee premiered in 2009, it quickly became a hit with young audiences—and the first season was nominated for a whopping 19 Emmy Awards. Morrison said he was surprised by the reaction.
“I think everyone was in the beginning, to be honest,” he wrote. “Ryan Murphy is such a talented writer, producer and director, and he had such a strong vision for this show, along with Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. I strongly feel that Glee was the most socially relevant program for its time, connecting with audiences on all levels. The storylines, characters and music clicked in a way that was so unique for television, and still is today. I’m truly proud of what that show accomplished on a social level. I hear day after day just how much that show changed lives.”
Thanks to his time on Broadway, Morrison discovered his ability to sing jazz songs, as well as American standards.
“As a Broadway actor and singer, your voice is trained to tell a story and emote in a wide range,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of American standards and the ‘feel’ of the legends from the ’60s—like Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. These standards they sung told beautiful stories, and that is why I connected with them so much. When I’m up onstage during a concert, connecting with an audience by singing these songs, it brings me back to the Broadway stage. Many of these songs were also sung throughout Broadway shows, so there’s a natural connection there as well.”
Morrison released two studio albums, both during Glee’s run; his most recent, Where It All Began, was released in 2013 on Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s 222 Records. I asked him if there was any new music from him forthcoming.
“Music has and always will play an integral role in my life and career,” he said. “The only thing that changes is where I see myself, and how I can authentically deliver a message to my audience. All I can say right now is that I’ve been working very hard on creating a project that is relevant to my life as father, and I look forward to sharing it in the near future with everyone.”
There is one Broadway role that Morrison said he still wishes to play—and if you listen to his version of that play’s title track on Where It All Began, you’ll realize how perfect he’d be in the role.
“A main source of inspiration has come from Gene Kelly. He was an all-around entertainer and talented individual. A production of Singing in the Rain would be an honor to be a part of,” Morrison said. “The title song is one I perform at almost every concert. It’s my way of attaching myself perpetually to the story.”
Matthew Morrison will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 21, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $80 to $130. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.