Matthew Morrison can do it all: from fun and funky musicals like Hairspray, Rocky Horror and Footloose to Lincoln Center Theater spectacles like The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. It’s no wonder Morrison has found international fame as glee club mentor Will Schuester on Glee. Since leaving NYC, the Tony and Emmy nominee has also appeared on the big screen in The Muppets and What to Expect When You’re Expecting and released two albums, Matthew Morrisonand a new collection of showtunes, Where It All Began. Now, Morrison is returning to 54 Below with an encore engagement of Up Close and Personal with Matthew Morrison, running from July 13 through July 17. Broadway.com chatted with the triple threat performer about his musical taste, returning to Broadway and Glee.
We know 54 Below is an intimate space, but how “personal” will you get in Up Close and Personal with Matthew Morrison?
It’s personal because it’s me: I’m not hiding behind a character. I’m just being myself, and I’m telling personal stories of my life. It’s a real cabaret act, which is something that’s new to me, and something I have had a great summer doing.
What do you miss about life in New York?
Friends and food and having the opportunity to see a show whenever I want, although I’ve seen most stuff that’s out there. I really want to see Matilda, and possibly Alan Cumming in Macbeth. I still have my apartment here, and it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever give up.
What role would lure you back to Broadway?
My favorite show of all-time is Assassins, and I’ve always wanted to play John Wilkes Booth in that. It would be such a blast. I love that Sondheim dark comedy. A Sondheim show would bring me back, for sure.
Let’s talk Glee. If you had a dream for where Will Schuester goes over the next two seasons, what would it be?
Personally, I think it would be fun for him to have kids one day. But this show is about firsts, and I feel like the kids have a lot of firsts. Will was really big in the first couple of seasons, but he’s taken a little bit of a backseat to the kids nowadays. But it’s been fun to be on this show, and to see what it’s done for arts education. I think people are seeing more [live] shows because of Glee, and its been really great to be a part of that.
Congrats on your recent engagement! Big wedding or intimate? Are you going to be a hands-on groom?
Definitely. It’s such a partnership between Renne [Puente] and I, so we’re going to do this together. We are planning on having a long engagement so we can take our time and not stress about anything on the day. It’s going to be very intimate—our guest list is like 40 people.
Getting back to your new album, were these songs you loved growing up? Songs you never got to sing onstage?
They are songs I feel I sing well, and that have great heart. “On the Street Where You Live” is the song I’ve sung at every audition I’ve ever had in my life. West Side Story is something I always wanted to do. I wanted to do songs with movement because I’m a dancer first and foremost, so that was a big part of the song selection. Unfortunately, at 54 Below the stage is so small, I don’t really get to do the dancing I typically do.
Speaking of dancing, do you have a favorite number from Glee?
My favorite dance number by far was “Make ‘Em Laugh.” That took a lot of work. Harry Shum and I had to learn how to do a backflip off a wall.
Can you share the secret of how it works?
Yeah, you go and practice [laughs]. Literally, we had an instructor, and we worked slowly on the mechanics of running up the wall and having trust that we weren’t going to land on our heads. It’s not that difficult—you just have to get over the scary part that you might die.
Just that part?
Once you get over that, you’re good!