Matthew Morrison followed a successful string of Broadway appearances with six seasons starring on the hit television show “Glee.”
After “Glee” ended, he made his highly anticipated return to the Great White Way in the musical “Finding Neverland” earlier this year.
Now, as he prepares to leave the show he calls “incredibly moving,” where better to head than back to the small screen?
“I just got an offer to do a recurring role on my favorite television show, so I’m very excited about that,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Morrison also is planning to hit the road soon for a concert tour with symphony orchestras around the world.
“The last album, my standards album (2013’s “Where It All Began”), kind of set me up to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is perform with different symphony orchestras all over the world, and that’s still true. Next year I already have concert dates for Houston, Kansas City, doing a couple of private events. That’ll take up a lot of next year as well, still trying to get more concert dates on the books. I’m excited to get back out there and perform with these amazing orchestras all over the world.”
Morrison currently stars in “Finding Neverland” alongside Laura Michelle Kelly, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello and Teal Wicks. Morrison plays playwright J.M. Barrie as he embarks on a journey to find inspiration to become the writer he aspires to be — and telling the story of how Peter Pan came to be. The show is based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name. Morrison is set to depart “Neverland” on Jan. 24, but not before actor Kelsey Grammer returns for a limited engagement starting Jan. 19.
Morrison says he always planned to spend about a year with the show.
“It’s been fun. What’s been hard is the wear and tear on my body. I went into the show wanting to do the most intense choreography I could, like ‘push me, let’s go.’ But that was my 25-year-old self talking. I’m 37 now and it’s a little harder than it used to be.”
Morrison previously appeared on Broadway in “Hairspray,” “South Pacific,” “The Light in the Piazza” and more. He played teacher and choir director Will Schuester on “Glee” and has released a number of albums.
Unlike his “Finding Neverland” character, Morrison claims he’s not a wordsmith, but his praise for the show shines through.
“Everyone is familiar with Peter Pan. The cool thing about ‘Finding Neverland’ is it’s kind of the story behind the story. The audience is following the life of my character, J.M. Barrie, but it’s a timeless story that blends love, hope, perseverance and a little bit of magic as well,” he said.
“I feel like for the grownups in the audience, there’s this beautiful love story in the show that they can follow. On a different level, for the kids, they see Peter Pan and Tinker Bell and all of these little things that trigger their imagination. It’s an incredibly moving piece and I feel like there’s something for everyone in it, and I feel like audiences are getting things on different levels.”
Morrison says there’s also a host of lessons that can be learned from the show. He points out it deals with death, the death of a parent of young children.
“For kids sometimes, that is a reality of life. It may not be a parent, it may be a grandparent, but death is always happening around us. To see how people cope with it is important for kids to be exposed to,” he said.
He also said tackling the hurdle of writer’s block, as his character does, can lend lessons to anyone.
“For every profession, I think everyone gets stuck in a rut in whatever job they have. They have to kind of create new ways of changing their perspective on things. Just ways to get through it. We all have hurdles to jump over.”
Morrison’s character is yearning for inspiration throughout the show. So what does he draw on as a performer?
“I find inspiration from many different things,” he said. “For ‘Finding Neverland’ in particular it was, I’ve never been much of a writer. I think that’s why I went into acting because I love words so much, I love trying to get behind the medium of things, but I’m not the best at actually writing them myself,” he said. “This is a journey about J. M. Barrie trying to find his voice through his writer’s block and ultimately, it’s a story about the power of imagination. I think at the end of the day, that’s what gets me through everything is my imagination. I love that you can give 10 different actors the same five sentences and each one of them is going to do it a different way. Putting your own spin on things and hopefully making it interesting.”
He reached back to his childhood days for an added boost of inspiration.
“I feel like this show resonated with me because when you’re a kid you make up worlds, especially for me as an only child. I was constantly making up worlds and creating friends and my little stuffed giraffe, who was like my best friend. It was all about the imagination as a kid, and I feel like I’m so lucky I get to be an actor and pay off my mortgage as an actor and at the same time, never losing that imagination.”
Morrison says he feels lucky to be on Broadway right now, as the theater world experiences a renaissance.
“I think it is something that ebbs and flows,” he said of the current rejuvenated state. “With the presence of ‘Hamilton,’ shows that reach a different zeitgeist and demographic, I think it brings a lot more attention to the stage. It’s something that I feel like hasn’t been done since ‘Rent.’ Jonathan Larson, who wrote that amazing piece, kind of put Broadway on the map. People like Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein, every now and then these people that come around and totally re-invent the game. It’s definitely an exciting time on Broadway right now.”
In addition to the changes on stage, Morrison said shows like “Glee” also changed people’s perceptions.
“I think having showtunes on television, a lot of people were exposed to things they never understood before. On the flip side, adults were exposed to Taylor Swift and Coldplay and stuff that they probably didn’t know about. I feel like that show opened up the door to people to see a different world. Definitely when I left Broadway, I left ‘South Pacific’ in 2008, it was a different climate to the way it is now in my return to it. Firsthand, I’ve been able to see the change in people’s perception of Broadway.”