Actor-singer will headline the 19th annual Symphony at Salk galaYou might know him as Will Schuester on the TV show “Glee,” but ask actor Matthew Morrison about what really gets his heart pumping, and he’ll tell you it’s performing in front of a live audience.”Television and live performance are very different,” he said. “With television, it’s a taped occurrence with no immediate interaction with an audience. More room is allowed for hiccups and to make things just as the director envisions it. With a live performance
— whether it be theater, music or comedy — there is a very real experience with viewers. The reaction is immediate, and the energy results from the performer’s interaction with the audience, and vice versa.
“Although more demanding, I truly enjoy playing in front of a live audience more than filming,” added Morrison, whose Broadway credits include “Footloose,” “Hairspray” and “The Light in the Piazza,” for which he garnered a Tony nomination. “I feed off of the audience’s energy, and it allows me to get personal with my fans. Television is an amazing vehicle to help expose my talent to a much broader audience, but I will always appreciate my stage performances more.”
His fans here in San Diego will get a chance to see and hear him perform live Aug. 23 when he headlines the Salk Institute’s 19th annual Symphony at Salk. The fundraising event will feature Morrison accompanied by the San Diego Symphony, under the guidance of guest conductor Thomas Wilkins.
Morrison took some time from his schedule to answer some questions about his upcoming Salk performance, his music and what’s on his bucket list.
What can we expect from you at the Salk gala?
Live music on an outdoor stage always makes for a fantastic night out. I’m excited to visit San Diego — one of my favorite cities. And I’m thrilled to perform with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Audiences can expect a great selection of American standards — most of which were made famous on Broadway, but were also covered by some of the greats, like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, to name a few. And of course, I’ll have a number or two for all of my “Glee” fans. My goal at this show is to keep it both classy and fun, with music that both compliments a live symphony orchestra and that is familiar with those attending.
How did your theater experience help you prepare for your role on “Glee”?
“Glee” is such a unique show format for television in the sense that it does incorporate elements of live theater, including the fact that music helps drive the story lines. The role was such a natural transition for me. I think because of my theater experience, I was able to provide some good advice and techniques to those cast mates around me who didn’t come from a theater background.
What kind of music inspired you when you were growing up?
I grew up listening to the music of Broadway. I loved how each song illustrated such a detailed story and allowed the listener to be transported to a specific moment. Composers such as Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein truly had a talent of creating timeless material that transcended generations. Through my live shows, I really try to expose this rich material to audiences who may not be familiar with it. And who knows, perhaps the music I perform will serve as a source of inspiration to my younger audience.
Is there someone who really motivated you to become a singer/actor? Your family? A mentor?
I’m very grateful to have had some great people in my life who supported and encouraged my career path. One of my high-school mentors, Dr. Ralph Opacic, had a big influence on my decision making. In my junior year of high School, Ralph sat me down because I was faced with the dilemma of either focusing on athletics (soccer) or the arts. His words of encouragement to stick with the arts had a big effect on me, and I’m thankful to have had that conversation with him that day.
What is Matthew Morrison like away from the lights and glamour of Hollywood — what do you like to do to unwind?
My fiancé and I love to cook at home. It’s one of those experiences that you can really connect with friends and family. I also enjoy running and practicing yoga. Both help clear my head and keep me focused on my projects.
What was your most recent iTunes download?
Most recent download is probably Sam Smith’s new album. So good!
What song would we be most surprised to find on your iPod?
I was really into rap and hip hop when I was a teenager. I used to enjoy breakdancing on a piece of cardboard with my friends. I have Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Easy E all on my iPod. And it always puts a nostalgic smile to my face whenever those songs come on.
Describe an ideal day off — when you’re not performing or taping?
I love nature. Getting out for a nice hike or run is priceless to me. Especially if I’m out surrounded by trees.
What’s on your bucket list that you’re dying to do next?
Hopefully to have some little ones running around within the next five years! Always wanted to experience being a father.