Matthew Morrison didn’t get a chance to sing and dance Thursday night as much as he might have in one of his more traditional concert programs, but audiences got to know a lot more about him during his performance with accompanist and interviewer Seth Rudetsky at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
The show was a combination concert (with Rudetsky at the piano) and Q&A session, with Rudetsky interviewing Morrison the way he might one of his guests on his Sirius XM programs on the Broadway channel.
Between songs, Rudetsky and Morrison sat in armchairs in a faux living room setting for a bit of conversation that allowed us to see the personal side of Morrison. Under Rudetsky’s comical yet earnestly curious prodding, Morrison talked about falling in love with theater at age 10 when he was staying in Arizona with relatives who sent all the kids to a summer theater camp.
He also admitted to being in a quasi “gang” that spray-painted buildings in junior high school in Orange County. “In Orange County?” Rudetsky asked. “What did you spray paint, Disneyland?”
The questions had Morrison blushing at times, which just made him, and the program, seem more genuine, charming and gracious.
And that same sense of charm comes out in this song and dance man’s easy, almost effortless performing style. He grew up idolizing Gene Kelly, and eventually got to live out his dream by appearing or starring in seven Broadway shows and playing school choir director Will Schuester in the Fox hit “Glee.”
The musical part of his program included several songs from his studio album “Where it all Began,” in which he displayed a clear and pleasing voice on such songs as “On the Street Where You Live,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Younger than Springtime” from “South Pacific,” in which he starred in a Broadway revival. And his tone was pure and sweet, singing a song from his Tony-nominated role in “The Light in the Piazza.”
He moves with grace and polish and can still hit the high notes even when he’s a bit breathless.
He also talked about his skills as a breakdancer, and his days in both a fake boy band performing skits on David Letterman’s “The Late Show,” and the early days of a real one called LMNT. He hated it, he said, because “it was so fake. There was no art in it.”
His passion for live theater was always clear. Even when he was doing “Glee” and building a wide fan base around the world, Morrison longed to be back on stage. He went on a concert tour around the time of his first album just to have a live stage fix. And as soon as the show’s run ended in 2015, he went right back to Broadway to play writer J.M. Barrie in “Finding Neverland.”
Morrison closed the show with an extended medley of songs from “Hairspray,” in which he created the role of Link Larkin. The songs kept him moving and swiveling his hips with flair and getting the audience to clap along.
And Rudetsky was right there with him, as much fan as performer. He admitted to recently undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon on one of his biceps, and said that Thursday’s show was his first time being allowed to play the piano in more than a month. You’d never have known.
Beginning a new season of Broadway Up Close concerts on Saturday at the The Kimmel Center, Seth Rudetsky hosted Broadway leading man and television’s favorite choir teacher, Matthew Morrison, for an evening of song, dance, and candid conversation. Beloved for his silky tenor, killer dance moves, and winning smile, Morrison flooded the stage of the Perelman Theater with his own brand of intoxicating charisma while featuring some of musical theater’s greatest hits.
With an impressive resume including hits such as Hairspray, South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza, and most recently a star turn in Finding Neverland, the average audience member will no doubt recognize Matthew Morrison from six seasons as Will Schuester, the faculty advisor for a ragtag group of teens in the Fox crossover hit, Glee. Seth Rudetsky brings his own arsenal of credits to the mix from accompanying within the Broadway community to authoring multiple books on the business, writing and producing his own work in New York, and hosting in the afternoon on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s On Broadway.
The Broadway Up Close series combines a casual cabaret style with a talk-show interview format where Rudetsky (usually at the piano, though unfortunately injured for this evening) mixes his intimate knowledge of the business with playful jabs at his peers; in this case making Morrison blush over stories of his early days in a boy band. Like so many Broadway favorites, Morrison’s big break came from being the eager understudy who was at the right place at the right time. From the out-of-town tryout in Seattle, he exploded onto the New York stage in Hairspray as Link Larkin, the 1960s teen dance show heartthrob.
Morrison’s style seems to blend his boy band background with classic crooning for a mixture of mellow suaveness and effervescent agility. Where any other vocalist would spend an instrumental break grabbing a sip of water or politely acknowledging the accompanist, Morrison breaks out in an explosive mini-dance routine, effortless yet filled with energy, reminiscent of Fred Astaire. And after breathing life into old jazz standards, he is able to captivate with classics of the musical theater repertoire such as “On the Street Where You Live,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” and a rousing medley from West Side Story.
The evening’s sweetest treat was by far a small taste of Morrison’s Tony-nominated turn as young Fabrizio Naccarelli in Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza. Described as the most challenging role he ever faced, his rendition of “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” oozed with all the passion of an Italian aria and the discipline of a highly-dedicated vocalist. Along with a few other features from Hairspray and a full out Gene Kelly “Singin’ in the Rain” encore, Morrison’s charm and good looks are outranked only by his vaulting range, with its muscular clarity and yet fragile intensity where needed.
Broadway Up Close is unique chance to hear from artists as performers and storytellers simultaneously, a setting especially flattering to a talent like Matthew Morrison. The evening mixes a wide range of favorite songs with his tales of rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s most powerful personalities, all while having the best dressing room on Broadway. Not to mention his risky teenage years as a breakdancing gang member tagging “Skylar” on the not-so-rough streets of Orange County, California.
With a star-studded lineup this season including Chita Rivera, Alice Ripley, and Vanessa Williams, this concert series is a great alternative to the standard cabaret setup and a treat for any lover of musical theater.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.
Before Hairspray made its way to Broadway, where it would go on to win the Tony Award for best musical, the show’s leading man left the production.
“We went out of town to start doing the show and our Link Larkin got a movie and left us cold,” says Marissa Jaret Winokur, who is featured in the current issue of PEOPLE.
Winokur, who starred as plus-size optimist Tracy Turnblad in the musical based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, says she decided to get involved in the casting process.
“Matt Morrison was the hot chorus boy and I kept saying to them, ‘Matt Morrison is really hot. He should do it’ – only because I thought he was hot,” she says of the Gleestar. “I didn’t know if he was talented or anything. He was just that cute boy with the big curly hair. I said, ‘That’s my Link.’ But the joke is on us. He blew up and is everywhere.”
Of course, being costars meant making out in eight shows a week.
“My boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, would come visit and I would be, like, ‘I like the way Matt kisses better,’ ” jokes Winokur, who wed TV producer Judah Miller in 2006.
Now, Winokur will cameo in NBC’s TV event based on the Broadway musical inspired by Waters’ 1988 film, Hairspray Live!
“I said, ‘Even if there’s something fun for us to do backstage, I just want to be a part of it,’ ” she says.
After a successful first season, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts has announced the 2016-17 lineup for Broadway Up Close, hosted by Sirius XM Radio Star Seth Rudetsky. Formerly known as the Seth Rudetsky Broadway Concert Series, the Broadway Up Close concert series will consist of four performances featuring renowned actors from the stage and screen.
This season’s lineup will include Tony Award winners Chita Rivera and Alice Ripley, the Tony, Emmy & Golden Globe nominated star of Glee, Matthew Morrison, and Grammy, Tony & Emmy nominated star Vanessa Williams. Broadway Up Close is presented in association with Mark Cortale Productions.
“This new season of Broadway Up Close adds another layer to our fabulous Broadway programming by providing access to the best of Broadway in our intimate Perelman Theater,” said Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. “These cabaret-style performances, hosted by the incomparable Seth Rudetsky, give audiences an opportunity to experience Broadway as the title implies, up close, through song and stories from their favorite artists.”
In a new BuzzFeed quiz, fans can determine which of the stars they identify with, based on the roles that made each famous. The quiz can be accessed here.
The 2016-17 Broadway Up Close season will consist of the following performances: Matthew Morrison on Saturday, December 17, 2016; Vanessa Williams on Saturday, January 21, 2017; Alice Ripley on Saturday, May 6, 2017; and Chita Rivera on Saturday, June 3, 2017. All performances in the Broadway Up Close season will take place in the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts with the exception of Chita Rivera, which will take place at the Merriam Theater. A full schedule of dates and venues follows.
Matthew will perform at The American Christmas Carol concert on December 1st at Carnegie Hall, NYC.
roceeds benefit Kate Winslet’s Golden Hat Foundation, which is dedicated to changing the way people with autism are perceived, by shining a light on their abilities and emphasizing their potential.
Tickets on sale from November 4 on the Carnegie Hall website.
Don’t miss a special 30% fan discount: offered only Nov 4-7. Code: FAN25391
Leslie Kritzer will host the benefit performance which will be presented for one night only on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 7:30 pm at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street). West End star, Summer Strallen will read the stage directions.
Tickets for Proud of Us… are $75, $150, $250 and are now on sale at www.actorsfund.org or by calling 212.221.7300 ext. 133. Tickets that include a post-performance cast party will be available for a donation of $500. For details, visit www.actorsfund.org.
WOWOW, Japan’s leading premium pay TV broadcaster, announced today that Matthew Morrison (“Finding Neverland” “South Pacific,” “Hairspray”), Kelli O’Hara (“The King and I”) and well-known Japanese actor Yoshio Inoue have signed on as headline performers for WOWOW’s highly anticipated “Tony Awards Concert In Tokyo,” which will take place on March 18th, 2017.
Morrison, who most recently starred as “J.M Barrie” in the Harvey Weinstein musical “Finding Neverland,” and was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in “The Light in the Piazza,” and O’Hara, the 2015 Tony-Award winner for “The King and I,” will bring cherished Broadway hits to life and recreate the magic for the Japanese audience. WOWOW will broadcast the concert from the Tokyo International Forum, which seats over 5,000 people.
Kayo Washio, who runs WOWOW’s Los Angeles office, and is producing the concert event for WOWOW, said, “These performers have instilled in me a passion for theater over the years. Matthew’s reputation on Broadway precedes him. And Kelli’s voice takes me to another time and place. Yoshio has established himself as the foremost musical actor in Japan and I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to our stage. I’m so honored to have them all on board for our special concert.”
“It’s an honor to have been invited to participate in this special event, and to bring Broadway’s rich tradition to the beautiful people of Japan,” said Morrison. “I look forward to sharing some of what I consider the most important music in performing arts history, and to commemorate the productions that originally brought these songs to life.”
O’Hara added “After spending over a year working with my brilliant leading man, Ken Watanabe, in ‘The King and I,’ nothing excites me more than traveling to his beloved homeland for the very first time to perform with another of my favorite leading men, Matthew Morrison!”
The premium musical concert has official recognition from the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League. An increase in Broadway musical fandom in Japan has led to aspirations for this concert to become an annual event, with WOWOW to continue to produce alongside a variety of major stage show programs such as straight plays, musicals, ballets, traditional Japanese theatre, and opera (WOWOW is official broadcaster of New York’s’ famed Metropolitan Opera “The Met”).
WOWOW has an agreement to broadcast the Tony Awards that see the annual show broadcast live in Japan, exclusively on WOWOW. The American Theatre Wing‘s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.
The concert set list will consist of renowned Broadway musical songs and memorable performances from the Tony Awards.
“I just got back from Provincetown, where I did a show with Matthew Morrison. Yowza! Does he put out, theatrically! So many songs had dance breaks and his encore was “Singin’ in the Rain” with a dance break and an umbrella prop. Brava! Matt said his dancing began as a kid when he was in a “gang.” Of course, he lived in Orange County, CA, so I assume his gang was all pre-med students. Nonetheless, he said he would graffiti things and his “tag name” was Skyler. He said there was a girl he had a crush on, and her name was Skyler, and he thought it was a cool name. Tag name? From that explanation, I think he meant drag name. Anyhoo, he and his gang would get cardboard (as one does) and break dance all the time. Now that he’s older, he calls it “broke dancing” because the day after he does some steps, his body feels broke. I asked him what his signature step was and he said he could hoist his body up on one arm and pinwheel his legs. I then moved my chair back so he’d demonstrate but he wouldn’t do it for fear of a full body collapse. Cut to, by the time he came out for his encore, he hauled out his signature step and the crowd went wild. If they ever make a Broadway musical out of “Breakin,’” the 1984 film, please hire Matt. Yes, that was a film.
Before Matt ever did Broadway, he was in a fake boy band that the David Letterman show put together. It was called “Freshstep” (after the kitty litter), and he told me there was a song they did that was supposed to be from a film about a boy falling in love with a Deaf girl. The song was called “Don’t Talk To The Hand (Talk to the Heart).” Hilarious…and I found a clip online! And you can see Footloose star Jeremy Kushnier in the group as well!
I asked Matt how he got Glee, and he told us that he sent in an audition tape and they liked it. Then he had to go in person to audition for Ryan Murphy. He had just done a play with Jill Clayburgh, and she had worked with Ryan, so he asked her for advice. She basically told him to go in and flirt with Ryan. How did it go, I asked? His answer: “I got the job.” WERK!
Matthew will visit The Today Show on Wednesday, July 6th, during the 9 – 10 am hour, with Broadway actress Megan Hilty, to talk about their New York Pops Summer Concert, taking place on July 7th at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY.
Logo today announced that legend of stage and screen Harvey Fierstein and seminal LBGT news outlet The Advocate will be honored during the third annual “Trailblazer Honors,” a television special that celebrates PIONEERS at the forefront of LGBT equality. For the first time, VH1 and Logowill simulcast the “Trailblazer Honors,” the largest televised LGBT Pride event, on Saturday, June 25 at 8pm ET/7pm CT. The one-hour special is an official event of NYC Pride Week and will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of the first religious institutions in New York City to champion the causes of LGBT people. Fierstein and The Advocate join previous years’ honorees including the Obama Administration, Edie Windsor, Judy and Dennis Shepard, as well asLaverne Cox and the cast of “Orange is the New Black.”