Matthew Morrison has a busy year coming up. As soon as he finishes shooting the final season of the Fox network series Glee (which he estimates will be in February), he jumps right into rehearsals for the new Broadway musical Finding Neverland, in which he plays the estimable Peter Pan creator, J.M. Barrie.
But first comes Christmas. Morrison makes a quick trip to New York on December 19 and 20 to perform in Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays, with his frequent Broadway costar Kelli O’Hara, conductor Steven Reineke and the New York Pops, and the 300-strong Essential Voices USA choir atCarnegie Hall. Morrison recently chatted with TheaterMania about this “mind-blowing” experience.
You and Kelli have a long history together, in Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. What was the impetus for this concert?
We’ve been talking about doing a show together in some format somewhere…We were really just excited to get onstage together again. [Kelli]’s done Carnegie Hall before, but I’ve never done it in my own kind of concert, so this is going to be a new experience for me and something on my bucket list I can cross off. It’s mind-blowing. I’ve always wanted to play there.
How do you choose a set list for a holiday concert? What songs are you planning to perform?
They had suggestions of classic songs…and we sat down and hashed it all out. Kelli and I will do a couple selections that we’ve really wanted to do, like “Tonight” from West Side Story and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I plan on bringing out my ukulele and playing with the orchestra for a Hawaiian Christmas Song. The great thing about this concert is that there’s going to be a three-hundred-person choir, which is exciting for both of us.
What is your favorite holiday song?
My favorite song, I think, is “O Holy Night.” The New York Pops has this arrangement with a female lead so I [said to Kelli], “You sing it, I’m gonna sit in the audience for this one.”
Do you and your wife, Renee, have any special Christmas traditions?
Honestly, until we have kids, Christmas Day for us has been about flying. It’s the best day in the world that you can get on an airplane, because the airport is completely empty. It’s such a great day to fly. For the past few years, we’ve been flying somewhere on Christmas Day, so that’s what we’ll do. When kids come along, there will be a whole different set of traditions.
Switching gears, have you thought about what you’ll miss most about the whole Gleeexperience now that the show is ending its run?
I think I’m going to miss the people. The cast has been amazing. We’ve gone through a lot together. [I’ll] especially [miss] the crew. They’re the ones who are there from start to finish every single day. You get close to those people. We’ll never all be in the same room, probably ever again, after this. It’s a little sad. I won’t miss the hours. I’m excited to go back to Broadway next year because I’ll have a set schedule and be able to plan a lunch or dinner. Well, probably not dinner. [laughs]
Speaking of which, have you started preparing yet for Finding Neverland?
I’m jumpstarting all the research I want to do for this part. All my free time is just reading [J.M. Barrie’s] plays and learning about him. He had a very eclectic career. We’ve made a lot of fixes in the script and some songs [since the American Repertory Theatre run]. The Broadway show is going to be a lot tighter and with a little better storytelling.
Matthew Morrison And Kelli O’Hara’s ‘Home For The Holidays’ Will Be A Reunion In Song
Given that Christmas is a time for faithful friends, the New York Pops’ forthcoming “Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays” concert, which reunites Broadway co-stars and longtime pals Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison, couldn’t be more appropriate for the season.
O’Hara and Morrison, who were seen together in “The Light in the Piazza” and the 2008 revival of “South Pacific,” will croon holiday classics and a few standards with the Pops in the concert, which hits New York’s Carnegie Hall on Dec. 19 and 20 and will be conducted by Steven Reineke.
The performance will undoubtedly be yet another highlight in what’s been a prolific time for both stars. O’Hara nabbed a Tony nomination for her role in “The Bridges of Madison County” on Broadway, while her turn as Mrs. Darling in NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” was seen as one of the broadcast’s best components. In 2015, she’ll return to Broadway in the revival of “The King and I” after making her Met Opera debut in “The Merry Widow.” For his part, Morrison tied the knot with Renee Puente in Hawaii, and is set to begin rehearsals for “Finding Neverland” just days after his role on Fox’s “Glee” wraps.
“It is so fun when you know somebody and you have a history,” O’Hara says of her yuletide reunion with Morrison. “There’s a trust there that you can’t develop very easily … it doesn’t feel like the holidays if I’m not having some kind of musical experience, so I feel like this year will be complete.”
Added Morrison: “If you can have your ideal work environment, you want it to be with the people that you love. We know each other so well, we know each others’ voices so well, so it’s really easy to put together songs and material for the both of us.”
With 2014 coming to a close, the stars also see the show as a festive way to gear up for their respective 2015 projects, and both couldn’t be looking to the new year with more optimism.
“It’s interesting when roles come along at the right time in your life,” O’Hara, 38, says of Anna in “The King and I,” which opens at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre on April 16. “She’s a really strong woman who sets off on a big, bold journey. Having journeyed to a new place myself and had to make a life there, it’s something I can identify with. I love her strength.”
“Finding Neverland,” Morrison notes, “really focuses on restored optimism and the power of imagination” through “complex character relationships.” For the 36-year-old actor, it’s a project that will not only play to his strengths as a performer but, in some ways, couldn’t be more different than his role on “Glee.”
That’s not to say the success of “Glee” is lost on Morrison, of course.
“We tackled so many issues. We didn’t really dance around anything — whether it was bullying, being openly gay in high school, teen pregnancy and so on, we always hit it full on,” he says. “But the lasting impression of the show, I think, will always be the music. It was a new way to bring popular music, in the context of a story, into America’s living rooms. I think that’s what it will always be known for.”
“Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays” hits New York’s Carnegie Hall on Dec. 19 and 20. Head here for more information.
Source: Huffington Post