Matthew Morrison plays Mr. Will Schuester on the Fox TV series “Glee.”
While the TV show has become a part of pop culture, some don’t realize that Morrison got his start on the stage.
A Broadway veteran – originating the role of Link Larkin for “Hairspray” and a role in “South Pacific” – Morrison is going back to his roots for a PBS special – “Matthew Morrison: Where It All Began – Live from the Bushnell.” The special premieres at 10 p.m. Monday, June 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday, June 9 on PBS, channel 5.
“There are a lot of reasons I wanted to do the special,” he says while on a break from rehearsing with the Boston Pops. “I grew up watching these kind of specials with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. They always amazed me. When PBS approached us to do a show I jumped at the chance.”
The special was filmed at The Bushnell Theatre in Connecticut while Morrison was on a break from filming “Glee.”
“The show actually let me have three days off,” he laughs. “That was enough time to rehearse and get it all done.”
The songs featured in the special are from Morrison’s upcoming album, “Where It All Began,” which will be released on Tuesday, June 4. It features American standards with a twist.
Some of the tracks include, “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “On The Street Where You Live,” a “West Side Story” medley,” “Send in the Clowns,” Ease on Down the Road,” “Singing in the Rain” and “Luck Be a Lady.”
“I’m so proud of this album because these are the songs that I’ve been singing for so long,” he says. ” ‘On The Street Where You Live’ has been my audition song for a really long time. I even used it to audition for ‘Glee.’ It’s a special one to me.”
The Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe-nominated actor also worked on the album with the late legendary producer Phil Ramone and Grammy Award-winning producer Gregg Field on the album.
“Going in to make the album, we had to be gentle with the material because people have been doing these songs for years,” he says. “Some of the greatest vocalists of our time have covered these songs and I wanted to update them and give them a different arrangment.”
Morrison says it took about five months to finish the album because he had to take breaks during recording.
“It was so much fun getting in there with Phil because he was the first producer that I wanted,” he says. “I jumped at the opportunity and my album was the last complete work that he did before he passed.”
Morrison’s album is also going to be the first release from 222 Records, which is the label formed by Adam Levine. Levine is the front man for Maroon 5 and vocal coach on NBC’s “The Voice.”
During the special, Morrison showcases his showmanship. He sings, dances and tells stories.
He says it’s important for him to stay active in order to dance on the stage.
“I was a big athlete back in the day,” he says. “Playing soccer gave me a good work ethic. Now I’m a very active runner. But there are times when you know to hold back from so much dancing when performing.”
Morrison says the PBS special is a glimpse of what audiences will see when he tours.
Currently, he’s performing single shows, like the one with the Boston Pops.
He’ll be performing in Boston and then New York, Los Angeles and even travel to London for some shows.
“Once ‘Glee’ starts to wind down, I’ll be able to do a proper tour,” he explains. “Filming starts up in July and that will be my focus. But while it’s not filming, I’m trying to get to as many places as possible.”
Morrison has been on the hit TV show for four seasons now and says he is still surprised at the effect the show has had.
“None of us ever expected this global phenomenon,” he says. “It’s taken on a whole new direction and we’re constantly impressed with the writers. Our show is groundbreaking and the writers are still going to places that most shows don’t want to go. The stuff isn’t easy to see, but the writers don’t want to rest on their laurels. But the show helps open up conversations and I believe that was the reason for the show.”