Matthew Morrison, the well-seasoned musical theater star, who is best known today for playing the high school music teacher Will Schuester on Fox-TV’s hit “Glee,” headlines Dominican University’s annual Trustee Benefit Gala Saturday, at the school’s Lund Auditorium in River Forest.

Calling recently from California, Morrison chatted about his love of performing before a live audience, about “Glee” during this season following the tragic death of actor Cory Monteith, and how his TV show has changed so many kids’ lives.

Q: What’s it like for you to put together a concert gig like the one you’re doing here Saturday?

A: I do a couple of gala events a year. Usually I tour around with different symphony orchestras. But for this particular concert I’m bringing my 5-piece band. I love doing shows like that because it gives us a chance to get together, and with an orchestra gig, you’re kind of stuck with a routine. Those are fine, but with those kinds of concerts, the whole orchestra has to be on the same page and have the right music up at the right time. Whereas with these kinds of gigs — what we’re doing this weekend — you can feel the audience a bit more. Depending on what mood they’re in, you can change the order up right then and there. It makes things more free and spontaneous.

Q: With “Glee,” you often bring in well-known major stars. What’s that like for you and the rest of the cast?

A: Recently we finished our 100th episode. That was a milestone none of us ever saw when we got started. It’s been great having stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kristen Chenoweth on the show — and not only on, but coming back for repeat guest appearances. Those high-quality actresses bring so much to the show. For me personally, it’s great because I get to interact with someone different than just the kids and Sue Sylvester [AKA Dolton’s ownJane Lynch]. So it’s just different. It’s a nice change up for me.

Q: Speaking of Jane Lynch, did she give you any tips on where to go or where to eat when you’re in town?

A: I’m sure I’ll definitely get tips from Jane before I come, because she’s been there more often — back visiting family and so forth. But I’ve been to Chicago a lot. I did a tour of ‘Footloose’ years ago and I’ve traveled there a lot, because I have a lot of friends who live in Chicago. It’s a great theater town. I love that aspect about it in particular.

Q: You must be delighted by the positive effect “Glee” has had on encouraging kids to participate in the arts — particularly music.

A: To be honest, when we went into this, I don’t think we expected all that to happen. But when that whole wave of interest in school choirs and glee clubs started happening — it was the most beautiful thing. I’m so proud of public arts education and happy our show has helped foster a renewed interest in that — and show people why it’s so important. I was so lucky to stumble into the arts when I was 10 years old. I found my passion at such a young age. I think that’s so much more accessible to kids now, thanks to how things are communicated so quickly and so far.

Q: Obviously, it’s been a tough year on “Glee,” starting with the loss of Cory Monteith. What has that been like from your perspective?

A: Most shows go through a lot of changes, but then there are terrible changes you don’t really expect to happen. But with that comes a lot more depth of experience. We’ve all experienced that loss of Cory as a family. And it has deepened our relationships with each other and with the show. We do a lot of stuff in honor of him. We talk about him all the time on set. There’s a big plaque with his picture on it on the set, so we see him and think about him every single day. It’s been trying, but also a beautiful thing at the same time — thanks to the way we all have come together and worked through our mutual grief.

Source: Chicago SunTimes

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