When I last saw Matthew Morrison at Feinstein’s/54 Below, his close friend and co-star on the television series “Glee,” Cory Monteith, had just died. As Mr. Morrison sang “What I Did for Love,” from “A Chorus Line,” in tribute, the room vibrated with a collective sorrow and dismay. That sentimental but tough show-business anthem, with its implicit message that the show would go on, hit just the right note at a sensitive moment.
Three years have passed, and at Saturday’s opening-night performance of his show at the same club, he commemorated the tragedy with a performance of the much more anguished Coldplay song “Fix You,” sung in a keening semi-falsetto. It was the most emotional moment in a show that revealed Mr. Morrison as a versatile, hard-driving musical frontiersman leveling the territory separating genres.
Mr. Morrison, who recently starred in the Broadway musical “Finding Neverland,” has a farsighted vision that encompasses rock, jazz and swing. By opening the show with a Frank Sinatra signature song, “Come Fly With Me,” followed by “The Lady Is a Tramp,” he boldly staked his claim to the realm occupied by Michael Bublé, who is three years older and whom he resembles physically and vocally, although Mr. Morrison is a tenor and Mr. Bublé a baritone. It was another of many signs that the Sinatra lounge tradition is not about to vanish anytime soon.
Accompanying Mr. Morrison was a quintet, directed by Brad Ellis on piano, that nimbly followed him from place to place. Mr. Morrison broke into some aggressive dance moves that showed him to be more of fighter than a floater. His tenderest singing was reserved for a medley from “The Light in the Piazza,” which revealed his facility at semi-operatic declamation. The evening ended with a suite of songs from “Hairspray,” in which he originated the role of the show’s heartthrob, Link Larkin. That Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman score stands as Broadway’s purest and wittiest distillation of the early-60s pop ethos before the British invasion changed everything.