On July 7, 2016, The New York Pops will return to its summer home, Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY, for a program starring Tony and Emmy nominee Matthew Morrison and a special guest to be announced. After a wildly successful outing at the open-air venue in summer 2015, The New York Pops is proud to return to Queens with a full, 78-piece orchestra. The concert will also continue the expanded version of the orchestra’s Kids in the Balcony program, offering 1,000 children an opportunity to attend and learn about live music for free.
This concert is generously sponsored by Morgan Stanley and AT&T.
“I am beyond thrilled to return to the stadium – we had such a blast last summer, and I know that the orchestra and Matthew are going to knock it out of the park in July!” said Music Director Steven Reineke. “Matthew’s performances with us in December 2014 were absolutely electric. We played two sold-out nights at Carnegie Hall. I am glad he will bring his larger-than-life talent to join our full orchestra in this incredible venue. And in case you’re not excited enough, keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of our other special guest!”
Emmy and Golden Globe nomineeMatthew Morrisonmight have won fame for his film and television roles, but he still thinks of himself as a creature of the stage. This week when Morrison returns to the Jones Hall stage for three special concerts with the Houston Symphony led by Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke, it will be a bit of a familiar duet as he was in Houston in 2014 for the Symphony’s Centennial Ball.
“I think they enjoyed the show, so they asked me back. I guess I did all right. It was a good audition,” Morrison joked modestly about the $2.6 million earning gala, when we talked by phone recently about his return to the city to give the rest of us a musical night to remember.
A Broadway and Gleeful Lineup
Morrison is calling the concert a kind of retrospective of his career, with selections from Broadway shows he’s starred in, including South Pacific,Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, and Finding Neverland, along with songs he performed on Glee as the endearingly earnest and geeky glee club teacher Will Schuester. He’ll also be doing his renditions of beloved standards like “Sway,” “Come Fly With Me” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” And yes there will be dancing.
“I’m a song and dance man,” he admitted with a got-to-be-me kind of chuckle. “There’s going to be a lot of singing and a lot of moving around the stage as well.”
Though he recently ended his latest Broadway run as J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, there’s no real rest for a true song-and-dance man. Besides a new reoccurring television gig on The Good Wife, he still loves to do big symphony concerts as well as tour with his band.
When I asked Morrison what it’s like working with a celebrated orchestra like the Houston Symphony versus performing with his own band, he made a loose comparison to the military with an orchestra a bit like a large army and his band more like an “elite delta force,” though he immediately laughed a bit at his own “awful analogy.”
“But I definitely trust and love having a big army behind me,” he explained. “You have so many more beautiful instruments to listen to. It’s amazing. I can say: I want a flute part here or an oboe part here and they can do that. There’s one song from Light in the Piazza that’s basically all harp. Harp people in a big orchestra don’t tend to get so much love.”
An Orchestral Break Between Broadway and Television
While this will be a new lineup of songs, he’s been performing with orchestras for some time now, mostly thanks to television.
“I first started doing these concerts when I was in Glee because I missed the stage so much. We didn’t have enough time off to do a full fledge production of anything. So my time I did have off, I decided to go be on stage and do my own show,” he explained.
Yet even now when he’s taking a break from Broadway and heading back to television, he still feels the need to hit the stage.
“I just got out of Finding Neverland. So now I’m in my television and movie mode because that’s a lot of time to commit to do do a Broadway show for a year. I needed a little detoxification from the theater world. But the great things about these concerts is that even when I’m doing a television like I am right now with the The Good Wife, I can pop off for a weekend and do a concert. It keeps me motivated and the juices flowing so I can do what I love.”
More songs performed by cast members of “Glee” charted than those of the Beatles.
During their six seasons on the Fox TV series that ended last year, “Glee” cast members generated 207 entries on the Billboard Hot 100.
“It’s crazy to think about that,” says Matthew Morrison, who portrayed glee club director Will Schuester. “I think we had more than Elvis, too. But the Beatles didn’t put a new song out every week. That’s where the chart discord comes from. And with the Beatles and Elvis, people are still playing their music today. I don’t know how often people are playing ‘Glee’ songs.”
Regardless, the careers of many of those involved in “Glee” keep going strong. And instead of matching chart successes with the Fab Four or the King, Morrison now pursues a solo career that is drawing a whole different set of comparisons. The performer evokes the spirit of timeless song-and-dance men such as Gene Kelly and Sammy Davis Jr. He’s putting those skills on display at the Kauffman Center this weekend during a one-time collaboration with the Kansas City Symphony.
“It’s exciting for me to get back on the stage and navigate where I am,” says Morrison, who’s been nominated for an Emmy, a Tony and a Golden Globe. “I love performing with an orchestra. You feel like you’re the general of an army.”
Morrison renders what he calls standards from the American songbook. Many of these can be found on his most recent solo album, “Where It All Began,” which features renditions of Truman-era classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Younger Than Springtime.”
Rehearsal with the symphony remains limited for Morrison, who flies in Friday and only nets a Saturday afternoon soundcheck with the group. Conversely, the symphony players are provided the charts a few weeks in advance.
“I love playing ‘pops’ shows, especially if I’m a big fan of the artist,” says violist Jenifer Richison, a member of the symphony since 2007.
Richison never watched “Glee” but knew Morrison from his esteemed Broadway career and a 2011 duet with Elton John.
She says preparation for this program isn’t much different than traditional classical concerts.
“Usually the pieces given to us to prepare for a pops show are either very technically difficult or very easy,” Richison says. “It’s fun to play both: technically demanding things and also pieces where I can enjoy the artist singing or playing their instrument. Secretly, the absolute best thing in the world for me is to have a favorite song where the strings do not play — called a tacet — so I can enjoy the concert as an audience member.”
Morrison also enjoys his own secrets during these symphonic collaborations.
“I do move around the stage a lot — which actually surprises many of the players in the symphony,” he says. “They’re so used to someone standing on the stage with a microphone and just singing. I play around with the orchestra, too. Some of them are really into it; some of them are taken aback. ‘What is this guy doing? Why is he on my lap?’”
Even with such movement, the 37-year-old feels like he’s standing still compared with the schedule he endured during the 2009-2015 run of “Glee.”
“Every show I do now is a cakewalk,” says Morrison, calling from Fresno while visiting his in-laws (he recently married actress Renee Puente) during a break from shooting “The Good Wife.” “‘Glee’ was television boot camp that I don’t think anyone else gets to experience.”
He says the cast typically worked a grueling 16-hour day.
“If I wasn’t filming, then we had dance rehearsal or were in the recording studio. It was really tough being on that show. I have a little PTSD from it,” says Morrison, who just completed a year playing the lead role of J.M. Barrie in the Broadway production of “Finding Neverland.”
“I’m so proud of what the show did for arts education and bringing music into people’s living rooms every week. But, personally, it’s going to take a little while to come down off it.”
Morrison grew up in Orange County, Calif., where his parents introduced him to a wide musical world early on.
“Where it really began was Peter, Paul and Mary. ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ was a big highlight of my 2-year-old self. My parents also listened to a lot of Rat Pack. They loved Dean and Sammy and Frank,” he says.
Those artists influenced him significantly, particularly when it came to the compositions they crooned.
“A lot of the songs you hear in my show are nods to them,” he says. “That was when songwriting was best. I hear a song these days, and I don’t follow what it’s about. Sometimes it’s just about shaking your ass. Now I get to sing these beautiful standards that are so moving and heartfelt. It’s a pleasure to be a conduit to the storytelling on that stage each night.”
During a time when his high school classmates were more into Green Day than “Hairspray,” Morrison got interested in musical theater. This led him to a stint at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He dropped out after two years to join the Broadway adaptation of “Footloose.”
This turned into a steady paycheck as he won parts in the Broadway revival of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and John Waters’ “Hairspray.” He also started earning small roles on TV and in films.
Then came a speed bump. A very well-coiffed one.
In 2001, Morrison ended up in the boy band LMNT. (The band’s name — pronounced Element — was selected from contest entries sent to Teen People magazine.)
He considers this the worst year of his life.
“It was soulless,” he recalls. “We were singing about nothing. We didn’t stand for anything. We were on the coattails of NSync and Backstreet Boys. They were these guys I had to live with, work with and hang out with every single day. It was a weird experience. When you’re onstage and you’re embarrassed to be there, you know you’re doing something wrong.”
Morrison confesses he’s felt onstage embarrassment since then, but nothing compared with that level.
He’s also felt a tinge of anger lately. Some of which is directly aimed at Kansas City.
“I’m a big New York Mets fan,” he says. “I first became a Mets fan in 1986. My dad’s a fan — that’s why I became one. It was so exciting. Then after that it’s been a big drought for years. Only one appearance in the World Series. So just being in the World Series (in 2015) was an achievement in itself. Watching those games was thrilling. And my dad was in town, so we got to watch them together. It brought back a lot of memories. … Actually, I wasn’t that angry.”
As for bringing this up while onstage in Kansas City, well …
“I can guarantee I won’t be wearing a Mets hat,” Morrison says. “Although, if I did, the joke would be on me.”
After taking his final bow in Finding Neverland on January 24, Emmy, Tony and two-time Golden Globe nominee Matthew Morrison will hit the road with a series of special concert dates, including a three-day run at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
In March, Morrison will play two symphony gigs, on March 19 with the Kansas City Symphony in Kansas City, Missouri, and March 24 through 26 with the Houston Symphony in Houston, Texas. Tickets for both cities are currently on sale.
In May, Morrison will perform a series of concert dates with his band, kicking off on May 20 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey. On May 21, he’ll return to Feinstein’s/54 Below, where he previously sold out 11 shows in 2013, for a run through May 23. Then on May 26, Morrison will play the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Tickets for all of the above concerts will go on sale to the general public on Friday, January 22. More shows will be announced soon.
Morrison won two 2014 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards for his performance as J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. He previously was nominated for a Tony Award for The Light in the Piazza, and also originated the role of Link Larkin in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Hairspray. He rose to international fame playing Mr. Schuester in the Fox series Glee, a role that earned him nominations for both Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
This weekend, Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe nominated performer Matthew Morrison performed with the Louisville Orchestra as a part of their pops series.
The first half of the show featured just the Louisville Orchestra playing an assortment of Broadway show tunes and movie scores including the overture to West Side Story, a Frozen medley, and even John Williams’ score from the film E.T.
After intermission, Matthew Morrison took the stage at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall to sing songs from his latest album Where It All Began, which is a collection of staple songs from America’s past that includes jazz, show tunes, and more. He performed a West Side Story medley, “It Don’t Mean a Thing,”The Lady is a Tramp,”Send in the Clowns,” and so many more. Before he started singing “Younger Than Springtime” from South Pacific, he joked about having to perform the song shirtless at Lincoln Center. He explained that taking his shirt off for a performance in Lincoln Center was considered art, but, if he did it here, it’d just be another day at Kentucky Kingdom.
The orchestra, under the direction of conductor Bob Bernhardt, sounded amazing, and Morrison’s voice shined. Like a true professional vocalist, his voice was perfectly on pitch all the time – even while he was dancing! It was a real treat to hear his dulcet vocals in person. A charmer, Morrison involved the audience a few times by choosing a few lucky ladies to dedicate his songs to and to dance with.
Upcoming Louisville Orchestra events include a concert with Ben Folds in January and the rest of their pops series which will feature The Midtown Men, Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney, and Symphonic Swing with Five By Design. For more information about the Louisville Orchestra, click here. If last night was any indication of just how great the Louisville Orchestra is, I highly recommend checking out the rest of their pops series.
You can catch Matthew Morrison on the last season of Glee on Fox and starring in New York City’s Broadway production of Finding Neverland in the Spring of 2015. And, if you ever get the chance to see Morrison in concert, take it!
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.
Undeterred by Thursday night’s rainstorm, it was a slightly soggy yet enthusiastic crowd that turned out for Matthew Morrison in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra and special guest Laura Benanti at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap on July 10, 2014. They were not disappointed—the energy of the performers, as well as their amazing talent, made for one of the most entertaining concerts I have attended in a while.
Matthew Morrison is most known for his role as “Will Schuester” on the hit TV showGlee, as well as his many performances on Broadway, including South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza. Laura Benanti was recently seen on television as “Elsa” in the NBC live telecast of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood, and is a Tony Award-winner for her role as “Louise” in Gypsy on Broadway. As their many credits might suggest, both are consummate performers. Their screen and stage credits alone however do not reflect just how charismatic and energetic they are in front of a crowd—with their easy humor and lively dancing they had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands.
Under the consummate direction of Steven Reineke, the National Symphony Orchestra was fantastic backing up the singers as well as performing in their own right. They opened the concert with a bouncy arrangement of “New York, New York,” starting the concert with an energy that continued throughout the night.
The songs were chosen mostly from Broadway and the American Songbook, though with updated arrangements to fight the contemporary styles of Morrison and Benanti. They were clearly very comfortable with the song choices, and able to perform them with ease and mastery. Morrison has a jazzy sensibility that is perfectly suited to the lounge songs such as “The Lady is a Tramp”, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing”, and his smooth tenor voice more than did them justice. Benanti showed her capability with big Broadway numbers, singing the standards such as “The Sound of Music” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” with her creamy, golden soprano.
The best part of the night however was not one particular song or moment, but rather was Morrison’s dancing in every number! This self-proclaimed “song and dance man” was exactly that, as he danced all around the stage during his numbers, soft-shoeing, dancing with the microphone stand, taking over the conductor’s baton to conduct the orchestra, dancing with his fedora, and even dancing with an umbrella during his fantastic performance of “Singin’ in the Rain.” His humor was infectious and had me completely enthralled.
Other highlights were the duets between Morrison and Benanti. They sang a lovely, intimate duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” during which Morrison also showed off his ukulele skills as their voices blended and complemented each other wonderfully. Their best duet though was their encore: a symphonic arrangement of Pharrell’s “Happy.” They had the audience on their feet, clapping along and laughing and wishing that the concert wasn’t over already.
While there were occasional sound issues (the orchestra at times overpowered Morrison, and there was a startlingly loud “blat” during one of the numbers), the stalwart souls who braved the rainstorm and the DC traffic to get out to Wolf Trap were well rewarded with an evening of fun, entertainment, and good song.
Running Time: 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
More than a few times in his life, Matthew Morrison has had gay friends choose him as the first person to come out to. “I’m open, a really good listener, a good friend,” he reasons. “I think I’m a safe person to start with, and hopefully that journey just goes on and on for them. I’m really flattered I could be that person for several people.”The actor, who stars as Will Schuester on Glee, adds, “I’m very happy to be a part of a world where two men and two women can actually get married in some places now. I’m excited to see what the future brings.”Glee hasn’t been afraid to tackle LGBT issues over the years and Morrison is keenly aware of the impact it’s had on its young audience. “I think it did so much good in our world,” he says. “It brought a lot of social issues to light
— being gay in high school, bullying — that we’re faced with. I’m really proud of the way we’ve handled those situations.”
Next Thursday, July 10, Morrison will bring years of Broadway and screen experience to a performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. “I’m the classic song and dance man,” he says of his planned repertoire. “A lot of the old standards reinterpreted in my own way, and timeless classics I just love to sing.” Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti, who recently sang with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, will appear alongside Morrison as a featured guest. “It gives me the opportunity to do something different,” he enthused. “We’ll sing a couple duets, and then she’ll do some of her stuff.”
He’s also looking forward to working with NSO Pops conductor Steven Reineke again. “He’s a trumpet player, so he especially gets the kind of music I’m trying to do, because my stuff — I guess you would say it swings a little bit more.”
With Glee entering its final season, Emmy- and Tony-nominated Morrison — who starred on Broadway in the original casts of Hairspray and The Light in the Piazza – is looking forward to what the future will bring.
“I’m so lucky to live this life and to be an entertainer,” he says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do — and to do it at the kind of level I’m doing it, is something that I wish everyone could experience… I try to make every performance genuine and true. I’m very happy with my life, my family, my soon to be wife. It’s all good in Morrison’s neighborhood.” – Randy Shulman
Matthew Morrison appears with the NSO at Wolf Trap on Thursday, July 10 at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $22 to $75. For more info visit wolftrap.org or call 877-WOLFTRAP.