Oozing charm, exuding confidence and with a sense of effortless style, Broadway’s song-and-dance man Matthew Morrison makes his Music City debut in a three-night stand at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, backed by the Grammy Award-winning musicians of the Nashville Symphony under the baton of conductor Steven Jarvi.
Morrison’s performance covers a number of songs made famous by him on Broadway – and in other genres by other entertainers – with each tune segueing nicely from one to another with requisite polish and the thoroughly accessible personality that allows him to gain entre into the collective audience of his attentive audience. Handsome and easy-going, Morrison’s matinee idol good looks might be disarming, but it’s his obvious talents that is sure to win over more adoring fans to his camp.
Morrison, whose laudable and noteworthy Broadway tenure includes Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific and, most recently, Finding Neverland draws on his wealth of stage experience to delight his Nashville audiences, while never letting them even for the briefest moment forget that he starred in TV’s Glee, the Ryan Murphy juggernaut that made high school showchoirs and mashups of popular songs part of the pop culture zeitgeist of the 21st century.
Bounding onto the stage in the best manner of nightclub performers and concert artists who’ve claimed the Great American Songbook as their inspiration, Morrison delivers a 90-minute show that’s energetic and entertaining, filled with reminiscences of his life and career and featuring some of the best-known tunes to be found in the catalog of 20th century pop, jazz and Broadway classics. Opening with “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and closing with an extended set of songs from his first Broadway hit Hairspray (he was the show’s original Link Larkin on the Great White Way) – and with a plethora of tunes, most beloved and familiar, in between (including a swell version of Rodgers and Hart’s “The Lady is a Tramp” that I could listen to on a loop from now to doom’s day and never regret it for a second), Morrison shows off the talents that have set him apart among male performers of his generation and background.
Telling us in an interview prior to his Nashville stand, Morrison admitted he may have been born in the wrong era, so strongly does he identify with the musical standards that have drawn a wide range of song stylists to them over the years. Onstage, he approaches the material with an easy grace and effortless charm that helps these familiar tunes sound fresh, if not completely new, ushering his audience into their own reverie of memories in a way that only the best melodies can do.
Each song in Morrison’s repertoire seems personally curated to represent times in his life that resonate beautifully both for performer and audience: “Singin’ in the Rain” allows him to pay homage to his personal idol Gene Kelly; “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” and “Some Enchanted Evening” recall his stint in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival (but where was “Younger Than Springtime,” I wonder, particularly since his character – Lt. Joe Cable – performs it in the context of the show); and his jazz-influenced “On the Street Where You Live” harkens back to “every audition I’ve ever done since high school.”
Perhaps the most heartfelt performance comes during his rendition of “As Long As She Needs Me” from Oliver! that is beautifully expressive and sweetly evocative with being at all cloying or expected. Yet, easily, Morrison is most impressive (ensuring every eye is riveted upon him as he sings) with Adam Guettel‘s exquisite “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” from The Light in the Piazza, which the singer/actor maintains to this day — whether in his onstage patter or in a private conversation — is his most challenging role to date.
Joined onstage by a ten-member ensemble of student singers from Summit High School, Morrison pays tribute both to his time on Glee and his first record album to perform a pair of songs by Sir Elton John: a mashup of “Mona Lisa,” “Mad Hatters” and “Rocket Man” that exemplifies John’s vast catalog of songs, just as easily as it showcases Morrison’s vocal stylings.
Jarvi and the Nashville Symphony open the performance with a medley of songs from West Side Story, which sound as lush and as beautiful as ever and start the evening off with the appropriate sense of theatrical fare. But what’s with the white dinner jackets? According to my calendar, at least, Easter is still more than a week away!
The Orchard has acquired North American rights to After The Reality, an indie film starring Matthew Morrison and Sarah Chalke that marks David Anderson’s feature directorial debut. An April 25 digital and on-demand bow is planned for the pic which opened the 2016 Newport Beach Film Festival. Morrison stars as a contestant on a Bachelorette-style reality show whose life is thrown into turmoil after the sudden death of his father, forcing him to quit the series and reconnect with his estranged sister (Chalke). Laura Bell Bundy, Juan Pablo Di Pace, John Heard and Jane Lynch co-star. John Hermann, Alex Koehne and David Anderson produce under the USofAnderson Production Company. Film Mode is repping foreign rights at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival market.
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.