BroadwayWorld spoke this week with Emmy, Tony and two-time Golden Globe-nominated Matthew Morrison of GLEE fame and Broadway’s HAIRSPRAY and THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA about his engagement to Renee Puente, how he spent last month promoting his new album WHERE IT ALL BEGAN in the UK, and his return to Broadway’s nightclub 54 Below in “Up Close and Personal with Matthew Morrison.”
The show kicks off at 54 Below tomorrow night, July 13, and runs for six performances through the 17th. The intimate concert will feature classics from Morrison’s new album, including “Singin’ In The Rain”, “It Don’t Mean A Thing”, “On The Street Where You Live”, his new “West Side Story Medley” and more. With help from GLEE’s accompaniest Brad Ellis as musical director, the show should be a swingin’ good time!
First I just wanted to congratulate you on your engagement — that’s great news!
Matthew Morrison: Hey, thank you!
And before I jump into asking you about 54 Below, I wanted to talk to you about your trip to London where you were promoting your album.
It was a crazy couple months. It started in New York with the 54 Below shows, and then I went to LA for a week of press, and then a couple of weeks in London. And London has kind of become a second home. It really grabs onto what I’m trying to do, I think. I’ve created a nice fan-base out there, and I played a couple of shows out there, and they were really, really well received. Yeah, the only thing that sucks over there is the water!
I saw that you attended the opening of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. How was that?
I was supporting Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who of course did HAIRSPRAY, and it was such a great night and such a great show. I’m so proud of them, and I really enjoyed my time there. That’s a show I’ve always wanted to see onstage, and they really worked for it. You could see the money onstage — it was a very lavish production — but it was beautiful.
So you talked about your last appearance at 54 Below. You’re coming back now after your sell-out shows in June. Will there be changes this time around, or any new songs?
I might throw a few new little songs in there. Mostly I just wanted to come back because I did a few shows there, and like you said, it was sold out every night, and I wanted to give more people an opportunity to see what I’m up to and to see the show I’m putting on. But it’s mostly going to be songs that are based off of this last album that I did.
Do you have any special guests planned?
I don’t. Should I start calling my friends? [Laughs.] It’s tough because all my friends are in shows right now, so it’s hard to work that out.
Do you have a song you’re most looking forward to performing?
Gosh, I have so many favorites. I love doing this “West Side Story Medley” that I do, and I do it with just a bongo player. I have this great drummer — her name is Valerie Franco, and it’s great to have a girl drummer, too, she’s awesome — and she just plays the bongos, and I do a five-minute West Side Story medley. Because it’s hard to pick one song from WEST SIDE STORY because they’re all so great. So I had to make a medley out of it. So, I love doing that, and “On The Street Where You Live” is one of my favorites to sing.
Why is that?
It’s a song that’s been in my repertoire for a very long time. I started singing the song when I was in junior high school, I believe, and it evolved with me. It’s the song that I sing for every single audition I’ve ever had in my life, including GLEE. And I have a little bit of my own take on the song now.
You talked about working with the bongo drummer at 54 Below. Are you working with the some of the same band members you worked with on your recording?
The recording was more symphonic; it was a 60-piece orchestra for a lot of it, and this is scaled down with some more local musicians. But Brad Ellis, who is the piano player from GLEE, he’s my musical director, so he’ll be up onstage with me as well.
Oh, that’ll be great — that’s exciting! Can you talk about performing in a smaller venue like 54 as opposed to some of your bigger venues coming up on tour?
It’s night and day. For me it’s a more intimate experience, obviously because it’s smaller, but I love having that interaction with the audience, having a dialogue with them. Because if people clap and talk a little bit, I will be right there with them talking, and it’s something that I just love to do, and it’s something that I miss from all my time that I’ve been on GLEE. I haven’t had the opportunity to get out and really perform live, so it’s just cool.
In terms of a bigger place — right after this show, I’m going to Rochester the following weekend to do the symphony orchestra up there. And those are amazing shows, and there’s such a different feel because there’s a whole symphony behind you. But you don’t get quite that same interaction with the audience.
I loved the music video you did for “It Don’t Mean A Thing”. Do you have more music videos in mind?
Not at this moment, no. They’re expensive to make, so we kind of did that one on a dime, but not right now. But thank you for that.
You’re welcome! Do you have a particular song from the album that you’d like to see made into a music video?
I think “The Lady Is A Tramp” would kind of cool. I had this thought in my mind of this storyline where there’s this woman you’re trying to chase. I don’t know, I’m just thinking of a very James Bond kind of music video in my head right now. [Laughs.] That’s the one that comes to mind.
That sounds fun! Is there anything you wanted to add about your gig at 54 Below?
This show for me is getting insight into me, personally. I like to really story-tell about my life and growing up in the business, so you get to see really who I am and not just a character that I play. Because most people know me nowadays as ‘Mr. Schuester’, so it’s nice to kind be in my own skin, a little bit.
Will you be starting to shoot soon for the new season of GLEE?
July 22nd, next week.
Are you ready to go back?
Yeah, I’m ready to go back. We all love our time off, as anyone does from their job, but it’s nice to be able to go back to something that has done so well and has created such names for us and has done such great things for arts education and just the arts in general. It’s a privilege to be associated with that show.