Matthew Morrison of 'Glee' to play himself during RPO concert

05:00 AM, Jul 14, 2013

Matthew Morrison of 'Glee' fame has a new album of Broadway standards that he'll highlight in his performance Saturday with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. (NEILSON BARNARD/Getty Images for Press Here)/


Written By Catherine Roberts Lead Local Editor/Life

if you go

What: RPO with guest star Matthew Morrison, conducted by Jeff Tyzik.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, July 20.
Where: Eastman Theatre.
Cost: $24 to $85; 10 percent off for seniors and students.
For information on both concerts: (585) 454-2100 or rpo.org.

Most people know Matthew Morrison as the lovable teacher and mentor Will Schuester on Fox’s Glee.

Broadway buffs may know him as teen heartthrob Link Larkin in the Tony Award-winning Hairspray.

Or perhaps as Lt. Cable in South Pacific, or as Fabrizio Nacarelli, an Italian suitor, in The Light on the Piazza. He received Tony nominations for both roles.

On Saturday, Morrison said he’d like to introduce Matthew Morrison to the audience as he performs with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Morrison is one of those people who found his place on the stage early in life and never looked back. He was in children’s theater productions, then attended the Orange County School of the Arts. (He has said he bases his character on Glee on one of his teachers there.)

He went on to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. When he landed a role in a boy band for a Late Night with David Letterman skit in 1997, the choreographer was involved in the Footloose Broadway show that would open in 1998. Morrison left NYU to join the show and launch his professional stage career.

His first big role came along in 2002 in Hairspray, and he says it was a great experience. There was so much buzz over the performance. One of the older cast members advised him to enjoy the ride, because that kind of notoriety for a show is rare.

It was the most fun and energetic I felt being in a show,” he says.

Morrison was doing South Pacific when he first auditioned for Glee. The popular show, whose fans call themselves Gleeks, has catapulted Morrison into an elite tier of stardom.

He wouldn’t trade it. Stardom has brought opportunities he had only dreamed of. But he is glad he was settled when it hit and is now dealing with the fame in his 30s, instead of when he was still trying to find himself in his 20s.

Thankfully, I’m such a homebody now,” says Morrison, who announced his engagement to model Renee Puente last month.

That fame put him in the same circles as Maroon 5 frontman and The Voice coach Adam Levine, who had decided to launch his own recording company, 222 Records.

Morrison says the two men, who would see each other at social events, each has a deep love of music — and of its many forms. Morrison’s 2011 self-named album on the Mercury Records label included a mix of pop songs and covers, including a song the actor wrote about the good and bad of fame.

The conversation between Morrison and Levine turned to Broadway and the American Songbook, a genre loved by both men. Morrison had wanted to record an album of standards, and Levine told him he wanted to make it for him.

I laughed it off,” Morrison says, but Levine was true to his word and Where
it All Began is the first release by 222 Records. Morrison says Levine was great to work with, giving the album the attention and resources needed but the creative freedom to make the album Morrison wanted.

A lot of research went into the album, Morrison says, even though he is schooled and a great fan of the genre.

I think the style kind of decided itself for me,” he says.

He narrowed down the period that roughly was from the late 1950s to early 1970s, “the great era of storytelling in music.”

What made the cut on Where it All Began? “Singin’ in the Rain.” “Come Rain or Come Shine.” A medley from West Side Story. “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

The Wiz is a bit past the period of the rest of the songs on the album, but including “Ease on Down the Road” gave Morrison a chance to sing a duet with Smoky Robinson. It was a “surreal experience” that this king of Motown wanted to be on his album, Morrison says.

Also included on the album is a song that perhaps Morrison knows the best — “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. The song was Morrison’s go-to audition song.

It fits in a really great place for my voice,” he says. He’s what’s called a baritenor, a baritone who can also sing some in higher register. Over the years, he’s fallen in love with the song for its merits.

It’s about a guy in love with a girl, and the girl doesn’t know he exists,” says Morrison, adding that there’s a wisp of suffering in the song, yet you don’t want it to end.

Rochester audiences should get a big taste of what the album is about on Saturday.

My heart is on the stage, and in this small break we have from the show, this is my only chance to do something like that,” says Morrison of performing the symphony concerts.

If his other concerts are any indication, the audience should get a taste of the dancing that got him his first break in Footloose. In fact, the arrangements on the album allowed some pauses in the music, for reflection, to allow for the instrumentals to be heard and for dancing.

Then it’s back to the set for another season of Glee and some clowning around with good friend Jane Lynch.

I’ve learned so much from this show. Just the training, using different techniques,” he says.

He’s definitely still willing to continue the life-changing ride of Glee, he says.

But the first place he’ll run when it finally ends? A beeline across the country to Broadway.