He’s won hearts—and critical acclaim—as everyone’s favorite teacher on television hit Glee, and been nominated for two Drama Desk awards for portraying Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie in Broadway’s Finding Neverland. What role will Matthew Morrison be playing when he comes to the Van Wezel Jan. 12?
Apparently, mostly himself. Morrison’s appearance here will be “kind of impromptu,” the actor said in an interview. “I did this before with [composer-musician-radio host] Seth Rudetsky, and half of the show is more of an interview with me. Then Seth gets over to the piano and starts riffing off some songs that were in shows and musicals I’ve done in the past. But he can throw me a loop sometimes, so you never know for sure what will happen.”
One thing that has been pretty certain through Morrison’s life: a show business career. “I was big into soccer as a kid, and I also thought I might go into the medical field, since both of my parents were,” he says. “But then my dad, who was a midwife, took me to work one day and I saw babies being born, all the blood, etc. I thought I’d stick to performing.”
He was encouraged by a mentor at the Orange County High School of the Arts, who told him, “‘I feel a lot of potential in you’,” he recalls. “That made me really think about a career as an actor.”
Morrison headed to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied for two years before dropping out and joining the Broadway cast of Footloose. Other roles that came his way were in a revival of The Rocky Horror Show and his big break as heartthrob Link Larkin in Hairspray. Since then, besides his turns on Glee and in Finding Neverland, he’s also appeared in the musical The Light in the Piazza (scoring a Tony nomination) and as Lieutenant Cable in a Lincoln Center production of South Pacific.
What kind of roles does he gravitate to? “Ten years ago, I would have said whatever role I could get,” he laughs. “Now that I’m older and more established, a role has to be really worth taking the time away from my family.” Married in 2014, Morrison says he and his wife are definitely planning to have kids sometime soon.
“This year’s been a lot of travel, but that is something I love to do,” he says. “I love exploring new people and places, and I’m lucky I get to do a job that includes travel. But I want to do more of it with my wife.”
Morrison says the stage is his first love, and that’s why he enjoys doing shows like the one at the Van Wezel, “being up there entertaining people.” But Glee, he says, was special, “because I was part of a TV show that stood for something. We got to bring music into people’s living rooms and talk about hot button issues; we had a voice, and we used it.”—Kay Kipling
For tickets to the Morrison/Rudetsky show, call 953-3368 or go to vanwezel.org.