Movie News & Reviews

‘Glee’ star Matthew Morrison brings his song and dance to Picnic with the Pops

Matthew Morrison at a screening and Q&A for “Glee” at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2012.
Matthew Morrison at a screening and Q&A for “Glee” at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2012. AP

Park and Bark.

In theatrical terms, this expression describes a singer or performer who tends to stand in one place on stage and sing with little or no acting, movement or emotion.

It’s also something that Broadway veteran and Fox-TV’s “Glee” star Matthew Morrison has no interest in.

“My concerts are a pretty good workout for me,” he said.

Whether you look at his role models or his extensive experience both onstage and onscreen, Morrison prides himself on being a natural showman, a song-and-dance man and a performer who can do it all.

Morrison grew up idolizing the grace and masculinity of the legendary Gene Kelly while attending a performing-arts high school in California. He later went on to study at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts before starting his theatrical career in New York City.

He landed his first Broadway role playing Chuck Cranston in the stage adaptation of “Footloose” in 1998 before getting his breakout role as Link Larkin in the 2002 production of “Hairspray” and later a Tony Award-nominated performance in the musical “The Light at the Piazza” in 2005.

Morrison dabbles in Broadway, as he did last year playing J.M. Barrie in the stage adaptation of the 2004 film “Finding Neverland.” However, he admits he has to be selective because of the endurance it takes to consistently pull off musical theater at the highest level.

“I think Broadway is more of a young man’s game,” said Morrison, 37. “When you’re trying to put on that same performance that the people love every single night, it’s a lot of time and commitment.”

Morrison later transitioned to screen actor and eventually landed the role that catapulted his career, portraying Will Schuester, the high school Spanish-teacher-turned-glee club leader on Fox’s hit 2009 musical dramedy, “Glee.”

The show took home multiple Golden Globe Awards and Emmys during its six-year run and earned Morrison himself a Golden Globe nomination in 2010.

Even as each day provides more hindsight, Morrison can’t fully put his finger on what made “Glee” the pop culture phenomenon it was. But aside from its ability to tackle some serious issues in a unique way, he said the way the show used popular music is similar to what all great stage musicals can do.

“You take songs a lot of people heard many, many times. ... If you weave those songs into a story line, those songs get a whole new meaning,” he said. “We got to some great storytelling through music and it wasn’t ever presented like that before.”

Morrison’s success on “Glee” has allowed him to scratch all of his creative itches. He recorded two studio albums — a self-titled release in 2010 and “Where It All Began” in 2013 — and returned to the small screen this year for a recurring role in the hit CBS drama “The Good Wife.”

But what he has done away from just acting or singing is what he will do Saturday at Lexington’s Picnic for the Pops . During production hiatuses on “Glee,” he began to organize tours and travel the country performing songs with various bands and orchestras.

When he comes to Lexington, Morrison will play a set list that will be a career retrospective of his Broadway work and recorded music, backed by the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

Morrison said the set list might be a bit different depending on both the city and whether he is backed by a symphony or a smaller band, but the feeling of having an orchestra back him up is a unique thrill.

“It’s kind of like being the general of an army,” he said. “It’s a very powerful and empowering feeling, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”

Regardless of the number of musicians that accompany Morrison on any given performance, audiences will get to see a performer ecstatic to be in his element.

“Every time I hit that stage, it’s a breath of fresh air for me,” he said. “I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do, and I feel so lucky I get to do this and bring music and joy and hopefully introspectiveness to an audience every single night.”

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments