Though he’s best known as high-school glee-club director Will Schuester on TV’s “Glee,” 35-year-old Matthew Morrison has a background in musical theater that goes back to early childhood.

Morrison was already a Broadway performer during his first year of college and he continued to work regularly in musicals until “Glee” debuted five years ago. Since then, he’s taken every opportunity to sing and dance on stage, often with symphony orchestras around the world. And that’s precisely what he’ll be doing March 8 — though with his own five-piece band — while headlining the annual Trustee Benefit Concert Gala at Dominican University in River Forest.

We caught up with Morrison for a quick chat about “Glee,” the healing power of singing and why he’s a dedicated song-and-dance man.

Q: You spent most of your career on stage before “Glee.” Have you missed it?

A: I’m a stage performer first and foremost. My passion is being on stage and I’ve missed it so much, so I’ve been doing concerts anywhere they’ll have me. (Laughs) But I’m especially looking forward to this one because I can bring my band with me and that makes the show a little more free and spontaneous.

Q: What’s likely to be on the program?

A: Probably some songs from my new CD that features Broadway songs and standards — and other songs from that genre. I called that album “Where It All Began” because that’s the music I grew up listening to.

For this show, I’ll be singing a sort of uptempo version of “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady” and mash-up from “West Side Story”—six songs put together in one big medley.

Q: Will there be any dancing going on?

A: There will absolutely be dancing. Always. My particular inspiration is Gene Kelly. In my shows I try to channel that classic sort of song-and-dance man. I love the idea of a performer commanding the stage by just dancing and singing and telling stories. I think that’s wonderful and it’s hard to find these days. I’m trying to bring it back.

I consider myself very lucky to have found my passion at a young age. I was kind of thrown into a children’s theater production when I was just a little kid and right then and there I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I worked hard at it from the beginning. It’s a passion, but it’s also a craft that I take very seriously and I continue to try to hone my skills today. I constantly work at it because I feel so lucky to be able to do this.

Q: In that sense, “Glee” seems to have been made to order for you, since you play a teacher passing on that craft.

A: Definitely. If I could have written a show for myself, it would have been something like “Glee.” It’s a perfect show for me, especially because it does so much to boost arts education. I’m a proud product of a public-school arts education myself and that means a lot to me.

I think it’s great that “Glee” shows the value of arts education at a time when it’s under-appreciated and endangered. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from parents and kids who say they’re starting up their own glee clubs because the arts has been cut from their schools.

Q: “Glee” seems to have gone a long way toward making it cool again to sing. How do you feel about that?

A: Anytime the arts are celebrated, I think it’s a win for all of us as the human race.

Q: Have you always thought of singing in terms of a vocation — something you happen to have a talent for? Or does you sometimes feel it has a more personal meaning?

A: I’ve gone through a big transition there. Singing began as a very playful thing for me when I was very young. Then later, in high school, it became an obsession. I absolutely loved doing it.

But when I got a little older and began to be paid for singing, it gradually became a job. And the joy of it kind of went away. It was only very recently, when my friend Cory died [“Glee” cast member Cory Monteith], that I started to feel that changing. I had a concert the next day and I considered canceling because I didn’t know if I could handle it, emotionally, but finally I decided to try to go through with it. And I found it so therapeutic.

I had never experienced that before. As I was singing, I felt I was healing myself. And that completely changed the way I approach music now. Every time I sing a song now, it can mean something different depending on how I’m feeling. I try to embrace that now. Even if I’ve been singing ‘Send in the Clowns’ constantly for a year, I’m asking, ‘What does it mean to me today? And how can I share that with the audience?’

Source: Riverforest SunTimes

 

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