Have the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire vanished into the air of history?
Maybe so, but Matthew Morrison is determined to change that. With his velvet voice, deft dancing and chiseled chin, he might just do it.
Morrison, 35, is wrapping up the role that made him famous, the musical and fashionable teacher Will Schuester on “Glee.” The Fox hit is entering its sixth and final season, meaning Morrison will soon be free to return to New York and, aside from choice movie and TV gigs, revel on the stage he loves the most: Broadway.
“I can’t wait to get back onstage,” said Morrison, who starred on Broadway in “Hairspray,” “The Light in the Piazza” and “South Pacific.”
Not that Morrison has been exclusive to “Glee.” Between the show and some film work, Morrison released a pair of CDs, recorded a duet with Elton John, and has been performing live shows for a few years.
He’s coming to town to open the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Pop Series at 8 p.m. Saturday in Kleinhans Music Hall.
“He’s an old-school kind of star,” said Brad Ellis, Morrison’s musical director and also the piano player on “Glee.” “My phrase for it is ‘the man at the microphone.’ ”
Morrison recently chatted with us by phone from New York hours before flying to Los Angeles to begin shooting “Glee’s” final season.
Question: How has “Glee” impacted your life?
Morrison: There are positives and negatives to everything. I’m looking out the window of my New York City apartment right now, and I wouldn’t have these kind of luxuries in my life without this kind of show. What it’s done for my career has been just incredible. As an actor, the only power you have is the power to say no. Unfortunately, in a lot of actors’ careers you can’t afford to say no because you want to soak up every opportunity you can possibly get. The luxury to pick and choose what you want to do is something I feel so lucky to have.
There’s a negative side to it, too. My fiancée and I are getting married next year and people are just trying to get inside our lives, find out what our wedding date is, and really just get into our business. I’m a human being like anyone else, so it’s just kind of frustrating when I can’t have that anonymity that I used to have.
Q: Elton John is your friend and collaborator, and President Obama is a fan of yours. That has to be a little surreal.
Morrison: Growing up, Elton John’s music was always playing in my house because my parents loved him. So now that I’m friends with him and his partner, watching his kids grow up and stuff, it is kind of surreal to me. But at the same time I know him on a personal level, so he’s not “Elton John” to me anymore. He’s just Elton.
President Obama is something different. He’s someone who’s kind of untouchable still. As much as I would like to say I’m friends with him, you can never have a real, honest conversation with him because there are people with guns around. That’s a different scenario. Maybe one day I’ll have a good conversation with him when he’s out of the White House.
Q: What’s your goal with your stage show?
Morrison: I feel like the classic song-and-dance man is gone, the days of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Those people have influenced my life like no one else, so I’m trying to bring that back a little bit. My stage show is very that – timeless American classic songs, mixed with a dance aspect, a very smooth, throwback band. I tell stories of my time before “Glee,” coming up the ranks in the Broadway community, landing “Glee,” and what my journey is going to be afterward. Which I don’t know, but I make up some stuff.
Q: So how are you feeling about the end of “Glee”?
Morrison: It’s bittersweet, but I come from a world where I’m used to doing a part for a year at a time, then you leave and do another role. This is going to be interesting because I’ve been doing this role for six years now, almost seven years, so I’m ready to leave it behind. I’m looking forward to the future. I’m going to be doing some more film and television, but at the end of the day, I can’t wait to get back onstage … get back to New York and back on Broadway.
Q: You’re a young guy to ask about legacy, but I’ll ask: Is Broadway where you want to leave your mark?
Morrison: I like the multifaceted aspect of my career: doing concerts, straight acting gigs, and then doing musical theater shows. The diversity has been fun. But absolutely, my heart is onstage. That’s why I started doing concerts, to fill that void of not being onstage while doing this television show. I’m looking forward to getting back. I just can’t wait.
Glee star to kick off BPO Pops series
A pop culture celebrity from television and Broadway will open the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra pops concert series this Saturday at Klenihans Music Hall. Singer, actor and dancer Matthew Morrison — one of the star’s of “Glee” — will make his debut with the BPO. WBFO’S Eileen Buckley had a chance to speak with Morrison ahead of this weekend’s Buffalo appearance.