Several times during the opening night performance of Broadway vet Matthew Morrison‘s solo concert—accompanied by the massive orchestral sounds of Orange County’s critically-acclaimed Pacific Symphony—the popular Gleeheartthrob referred to the jazzy evening as a sort of “homecoming.”

It’s quite a sweet, reverent sentiment coming from the OC native, and understandably so considering he spent his teen years honing his musical theater skills here locally at the Orange County High School of the Arts before moving on to become a Tony-nominated Broadway star and, later, an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated TV fixture.

He truly is an embodiment of a “local-boy-done-good,” and with that in full display, the charming Morrison played for the “home town crowd” beaming with confidence and undeniable showmanship throughout the evening. And in return, he received loud, well-earned cheers from the enthusiastic audience.

Dubbed “Valentine’s Day with Matthew Morrison,” the three-night engagement of Morrison’s entertaining, high-energy take on swinging, big-band jazz standards and classic Broadway showtunes continues through Saturday, February 15 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

But right before Morrison graced the audience with his hour-plus set, the Pacific Symphony—under the direction of Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman—performed their own brief, yet still rousing program of, what else, romantic songs that included beautiful arrangements of “Samson & Delilah,” “All The Things You Are,” “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and Alan Silvestri’s score for the Father of the Brideremake. In between, Kaufman made brief introductions and asides that were delightfully amusing.

Then after a brief intermission, Morrison—who first humorously introduced himself with heightened but self-effacing superlatives—finally emerged to thunderous applause from the near-capacity crowd. There’s little doubt that many of the patrons in the audience were comprised of so-called Gleeks, of course, because there certainly was a higher decibel than usual to those screeches for a Pops Symphony concert.

And thankfully—for Gleeks or otherwise—Morrison did not disappoint.

Dressed in a custom-fitted tuxedo like a new-school Rat-Pack member, TV’s Mr. Schuester has ditched the sweater vests and transformed himself into a cool, fedora-topped 21st Century song-and-dance man. It’s a guise that truly works for him, and he absolutely proves it with the songs and arrangements in this concert set, many of which can be found on his most recent album Where It All Began, itself a collection of timeless jazz standards released last year onAdam Levine‘s label 222 Records.

Much of the music in the concert and on the album originated on the Broadway stage, which, naturally, is an obvious homage to his lauded pre-Glee roots (for the few who didn’t know, before taking on his role in Ryan Murphy‘s hit FOXTV series, Morrison made his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of FOOTLOOSE which later led to his breakout roles in the original casts of HAIRSPRAY and THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and, eventually, the critically-acclaimed revival of SOUTH PACIFIC).

Hearing Morrison singing these songs live backed by the full orchestral might of the Pacific Symphony was an awesome treat to say the least. And aside from the Pacific Symphony, he was also joined onstage by a fellow Gleepersonality—Brad Ellis, the non-speaking piano man in the McKinley High choir room. Ellis served both as this concert’s principal piano accompanist and its musical director.

Morrison kicked things off with the high-swinging “It Don’t Mean A Thing”—complete with a cute choreographed pas de deux with a coat rack. Yes, folks, not only does the guy sing the Great American Songbook, he also dances to it (unlike his peers who’ve made a mint revisiting these standards for albums and concerts but basically just park themselves in front of a mic). It’s quite a shrewd and smart way to distinguish his act from the rest—adding the element of dance and theatricality to an otherwise normal jazz concert.

Well, he certainly has the résumé to back it up.

He followed it up with a rhythmically-altered (and, ultimately, slightly cheesy) “Luck Be A Lady” from GUYS & DOLLS punctuated with Timberlake-lite gyrations in conjunction with its seductive beat (it was, for me at least, the lone, very minor hiccup in an otherwise solid concert presentation).

And in between songs, Morrison provided amusing anecdotes and reminisced often about his past, including his first experiences performing both at OCHSA and at the Buena Park Youth Theatre (the overhead jumbo screen provided visual evidence via old photos from his past as well). As it turns out, his original plans of becoming a soccer player was squelched after being sidelined by an injury, causing him to discover the realm of theater arts—which, of course, the world now appreciates.

“I was a jock,” Morrison joked. “But my sports were ballet, tap, jazz…”

Effortlessly switching gears from up-tempo jazz to quieter, more melancholy torch songs, Morrison’s engaging show provided the audience plenty of reasons to cheer. Along with rousing, big-band renditions of “Sway,” and “The Lady Is A Tramp” (which he nonchalantly restarted when he flubbed a few lyrics), and a rather mood-swinging rollercoaster of a medley featuring songs from WEST SIDE STORY (which he happily recalled as the “butchest show” he was ever weened on), he also gave the audience a terrific blues-y “Come Rain Or Come Shine” mashed with “Basin Street Blues” that I absolutely loved, and a smokin’ hot “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

But by far my favorites of the night were his quieter, gentler songs that tugged at the heartstrings. His exquisite, strings-enhanced rendition of Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” was just marvelous (he seemed even endearingly surprised when he got teary-eyed afterwards). And perhaps, arguably, his best musical moment of the concert came during a beautiful triptych of songs that recalled his first auditions in New York for actual paid work in the theater. Starting with a samba-fied “Hey There,” followed by a jazz-swinging “On The Street Where You Live,” Morrison then transitioned to a lovely “As Long As She Needs Me” that had me whispering under my breath… “wow.”

Later, he even teased the audience with the possibility of recreating his shirtless performance of the ultra-romantic “Younger Than Springtime” (from his stint in the Lincoln Center revival of SOUTH PACIFIC). Alas, he only undid his bow tie to the disappointment of many females in the audience (and, yeah—let’s get real here—even a few of the men), claiming he can only ever sing the song shirtless if he’s at the Lincoln Center.

His final song was an appealing “Singing in the Rain” punctuated by an umbrella dance interlude (sadly, it wasn’t the mashup with Rhianna’s “Umbrella” that they did on Glee, but it was still lovely), followed by an adorable encore of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow.” As a fitting end note to the “homecoming” concert, Morrison—with ukelele in hand—surprised the audience by inviting a lucky high school student from his alma mater to duet with him on the song, reminding the young theater kids in attendance to keep dreaming—just as he did when he attended school here.

Wonderful job, Matt. You certainly made OC proud.

Source: BroadwayWorld

On Saturday night, it didn’t matter if everyone in the Zoellner Arts Center atLehigh University was a fan of swing or musical numbers while watching Matthew Morrison.

They had to hand it to him — the guy can sing.

Morrison was the premiere act for the arts center’s 2013-14 season, and he was the premiere act for a reason. The Broadway and “Glee” actor sung through swing numbers, opening with “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and put the audience in awe for the rest of the evening.

Though many of the younger ladies in the crowd seemed to be smitten by Morrison (and who can blame them?), he also knows his way around a stage and a microphone.

Joined by an orchestra and the piano man from “Glee,” Brad Ellis, Morrison showed off his skills by singing and dancing, all the while wearing a simple tux with bow tie and a black fedora.

Though Morrison didn’t talk a lot about “Glee,” he wasn’t shy when he chose to sing “Sway,” which he sang in the second season of the show at Burt and Carole’s wedding.

He chose Marlene Finklestine, of Allentown, to dance with during the song. She was able to keep up with him and was even dipped by him.

Finklestine said after the show that it was exciting to dance with Morrison.

“What can I tell you?” she said. “It was very exciting.”

She said she was going to text her daughter to tell her she was able to dance with Morrison. Many other women passing Finklestine said she was a very lucky lady.

Watching Morrison perform alone was refreshing for this “Glee” fan. It was a chance to see another side of his craft that he has been honing for years.

His voice never wavered and neither did his smile.

One thing that makes Morrison a good performer is the emotion he puts into each song. It didn’t matter if it was a sad love song or a fun swing number — you could hear the feeling in his voice.

It was plainly heard during a medley of songs from the musical “West Side Story,” which touched on every major song from the musical, all the while acting as the character Tony.

His final number for the night included his only prop, an umbrella for “Singing in the Rain.” Many “Glee” fans will know he sang that in a mash-up that included Rihanna and Jay Z’s “Umbrella,” with Holly Holiday, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, in Season Two.

Still, it was good to hear the normal version of the song and watch his dancing abilities with the umbrella.

Throughout the night, Morrison talked a little about being on “Glee” and his first experiences on Broadway. He told a story about performing topless at the Lincoln Center in New York, after which he turned away from the audience to undo his tie, though many ladies would’ve wanted to see more come undone.

Overall, Morrison’s performance was something to be enjoyed by all ages and appreciations for music. After all, he was there to support the arts in every capacity, something which he embodies so well.

Source

Thursday 20th June 2013: Broadway and TV star Matthew Morrison has become a very familiar face on our TV screens in the last few years, especially from his role in Glee as Mr Schuester. Tonight, on a very warm night indeed, Matthew took us back to Where It All Began, the name of his new album which consists of lots of show tuenes – perfect for any musical theatre lover.Photo by Steve StubbsBacked by a rather fine five piece band, led by Brad Ellis on piano – yes, the same piano chap from Glee – Matthew comes on stage in suit and hat looking rather dapper and has a stage presence to match. Instantly, the audience are in his hands as he goes into the first of many songs from the new album, swaying his hips and dancing about as only he can.The arrangements are good, big band type versions of classics such as Lady Is A Tramp, Singin’ In The Rain, Luck Be A Lady and On The Street Where You Live. Slower numbers had warmth from the simple arrangements, As Long As She Needs Me, Younger Than Springtime and Send In The Clowns sounding especially resplendent. Matthew’s vocals were top notch, not missing any notes and partnered the sound of the band nicely.Matthew did one song from Glee, to the delight of all the females in the front rows – the hip shaking, leg moving Sway! The carpet was a bit wet after that I think from all the salivating going on down the front of the auditorium.Indeed it was a great set from Matthew, and if you are into musicals, then you will love his new album Where It All Began. Tonight was a shining example of good arrangements, great vocals, and fabulous stage presence. Hats off… oh, it already is!

5 Stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Source

 

Glee’s Matthew Morrison‘s voice is so smooth – it’s like butter. His debut album was full of iconic songs by seasoned musicians like Elton John and Sting, but his spanking new sophomore album is packed with covers of classic Broadway show tunes. Morrison has appeared in Broadway shows like South Pacific and light at the Piazza, so the title of his new album Where It All Began is very approrpiate – because Broadway really is where he began.

His vocals soar in these much beloved tunes. His voice is bound to warm your heart and put you in a good mood.

The track list for the album is nothing short of brilliant. Morrison picked the perfect cherished show tunes to show off his incredible voice and represent classic Broadway.

With “Singing In The Rain,” Morrison will have you swaying your head and wanting to dance with him. He sings in a way that is both seductive and smooth. You will not be able to listen to “Come rain or come shine,” without getting lost in the sweet sounds of his voice.

“Ease on Down the Road,” from The Wiz, was originally sung by Michael Jackson and DiAnna Ross – quite a difficult act to follow. With the help of Smokey Robinson, Morrison owns this soulful number. The track is one of the more upbeat of the album, and Morrison just wails and belts his way brilliantly throughout the track. Robinson adds some flavor to the song; he was the perfect collaboration choice for this particular song. The two sound brilliant together on the cover. It is easily the most fun off of the record, and the one most likely to make you want to jam out. The two make the song their own, their voices complimenting each other phenomenally

“Lucky be a Lady,” has a cuteness to it that can only be conveyed by Morrison. He doesn’t add riffs or any other embellishments; his sultry voice carries the song all on its own. The way he emphasizes “tramp” however, will have you bowing down to his talent. By the end of the track he starts putting a little bit of his own spin on it with some doo-wooping. That’s not embellishment, that’s just being original and being Matthew Morrison.

Morrison takes some artistic license with the iconic show tunes by changing them up, whether it is via the arrangements or his interpretation of the songs. This is most evident in his “West Side Story medley.” The medley is crafted brilliantly, all songs transitioning perfectly into one another, Morrison effortlessly changES from one song from the iconic musical to another. When he starts into “Maria,” listeners can prepare to just melt – because he just kissed a girl named Maria.

Morrison released “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” as the debut single off of the album, and boy was that a smart move. The song IS a perfect representative of the classic yet fun nature of the record.

As a whole, this album is perfect for Morrison’s fans who miss his presence on the Broadway stage, and theatre fans in general who love hearing their favourite tunes covered in an original way.

“Where It All Began,” is currently available on iTunes.

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