If you love holiday music, get set for the biggest treat of the year: Classic Christmas, a six-track EP from Tony-nominated Glee star Matthew Morrison, is set for release on November 19. Backed by the 60-piece orchestra that accompanied his recent album of standards, Where It All Began, Classic Christmas features gorgeous, jazzy arrangements that make you want to “hang all the mistletoe,” as Morrison sings in “This Christmas.” In a chat with Broadway.com Morrison, who will appear in concert at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony on November 29 and 30, explained why he chose each song on the EP and expressed his homesickness for Broadway.
How did you decide on the concept for Classic Christmas?
I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby Christmas records, so that was my inspiration. Whenever I hear certain Christmas songs, it brings me back to my childhood, and I hope this album will help people create their own holiday memories.
Give us an overview of each song and why you picked it, starting with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “This Christmas.”
I remember doing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in high school in a song-and-dance group called the Kids Next Door. It sticks out in my memory from when I went caroling as a kid. I was hesitant at first about “This Christmas” because the original [by Donny Hathaway] is so good, but I wanted to include something a little more modern, so it slipped through the cracks of my ’50s and ‘60s-era songs. I love it.
What about the religious classic “O Holy Night”?
I got to sing that for President Obama three years ago at Christmas in Washington with a huge children’s choir, and I was stuck by how beautiful it is. I compare it to singing the national anthem. You have to go low and you have to go really high, so you had better pick the right key. [Click below to see Morrison’s 2010 live performance.]
You take the camp out of “Jingle Bell Rock” and channel the Rat Pack in “Let It Snow.”
“Jingle Bell Rock” is a little campy, but when you’ve got a 60-piece orchestra, you can breathe a bit of new life into it! And “Let It Snow” is an iconic, timeless song that I’ve always wanted to sing.
Last but not least is a combination of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Mele Kalikimaka.”
I have a big affinity for Hawaii—I sang backup for Don Ho when I was younger and my fiancée [Renee Puente] is from Hawaii—so I love “Mele Kalikimaka.” It’s also a chance to show off my ukulele skills! I came up with the idea of leading into it with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Where will you and Renee be for Christmas this year?
We’re going to do a New York City Christmas. She’s never experienced that. I can’t wait to show her the tree in Rockefeller Center, go skating in Central Park—all the things I enjoyed while living there for 13 years.
Any plans to come back to Broadway?
I have some plans that I can’t talk about yet. I’ve been talking to producers and directors about a couple of different shows, and possibly even a new show. I’m dying to get back on stage. After this whole experience of doing film and television and recordings, I’ve realized that my heart is on stage. That’s where I feel most alive. I love that spiritual connection between an audience and an actor; it’s home for me, and I am excited to come back.
When might this happen?
I thought I would be out of Glee a little sooner, but some things happened so I can’t leave. I would say the end of 2015.
That’s a long time from now.
I’m telling you! You think I want to wait that long? But I’m very grateful for everything that has come my way [because of Glee]. I’m going to Italy next week, and I’ve [performed] around the world. Just walking down the street and hearing someone say, ‘Oh, Matthew Morrison!’ I think, ‘Whoa—and they even did it an accent.