Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Matthew Morrison might have won fame for his film and television roles, but he still thinks of himself as a creature of the stage. This week when Morrison returns to the Jones Hall stage for three special concerts with the Houston Symphony led by Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke, it will be a bit of a familiar duet as he was in Houston in 2014 for the Symphony’s Centennial Ball.
“I think they enjoyed the show, so they asked me back. I guess I did all right. It was a good audition,” Morrison joked modestly about the $2.6 million earning gala, when we talked by phone recently about his return to the city to give the rest of us a musical night to remember.
A Broadway and Gleeful Lineup
Morrison is calling the concert a kind of retrospective of his career, with selections from Broadway shows he’s starred in, including South Pacific, Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, and Finding Neverland, along with songs he performed on Glee as the endearingly earnest and geeky glee club teacher Will Schuester. He’ll also be doing his renditions of beloved standards like “Sway,” “Come Fly With Me” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” And yes there will be dancing.
“I’m a song and dance man,” he admitted with a got-to-be-me kind of chuckle. “There’s going to be a lot of singing and a lot of moving around the stage as well.”
Though he recently ended his latest Broadway run as J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, there’s no real rest for a true song-and-dance man. Besides a new reoccurring television gig on The Good Wife, he still loves to do big symphony concerts as well as tour with his band.
When I asked Morrison what it’s like working with a celebrated orchestra like the Houston Symphony versus performing with his own band, he made a loose comparison to the military with an orchestra a bit like a large army and his band more like an “elite delta force,” though he immediately laughed a bit at his own “awful analogy.”
“But I definitely trust and love having a big army behind me,” he explained. “You have so many more beautiful instruments to listen to. It’s amazing. I can say: I want a flute part here or an oboe part here and they can do that. There’s one song from Light in the Piazza that’s basically all harp. Harp people in a big orchestra don’t tend to get so much love.”
An Orchestral Break Between Broadway and Television
While this will be a new lineup of songs, he’s been performing with orchestras for some time now, mostly thanks to television.
“I first started doing these concerts when I was in Glee because I missed the stage so much. We didn’t have enough time off to do a full fledge production of anything. So my time I did have off, I decided to go be on stage and do my own show,” he explained.
Yet even now when he’s taking a break from Broadway and heading back to television, he still feels the need to hit the stage.
“I just got out of Finding Neverland. So now I’m in my television and movie mode because that’s a lot of time to commit to do do a Broadway show for a year. I needed a little detoxification from the theater world. But the great things about these concerts is that even when I’m doing a television like I am right now with the The Good Wife, I can pop off for a weekend and do a concert. It keeps me motivated and the juices flowing so I can do what I love.”
He’s still filming The Good Wife and seems set to bring lots of trouble for the series regulars this last season of the Emmy-darling show. He calls his character, assistant U.S. attorney Connor Fox, a “straight-shooter,” who “wants to do good and take down people who don’t feel the same way and have the same ideal and principles.”
When I asked Morrison if Fox will have those morally ambiguous moments that it seems every attorney character on the show (which is pretty much every character on the show) succumbs to, thereby bringing the best drama, Morrison hedged his answer a little. For obvious spoiler reasons and the fact he hasn’t seen all the scripts yet, he couldn’t reveal much.
“I’m just a catalyst to kind of bring the story to a new place. But I think we might see Connor do something that he doesn’t feel right doing, that gives him that icky feeling inside.”
Morrison did reveal one huge spoiler. When I suggested that since he’s sharing the screen with other notable Broadway song and dance men and women including Alan Cumming and Christine Baranski that the audience (specifically me) deserved a very special musical episode before the figurative curtain lowered on the Good Wife, he was pretty certain I would not be getting my wish.
He is enthusiastic about the newish trend, that Glee began, of some television programs incorporating songs in weird and organic ways, with shows like Empire or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as well as the rise of live musicals productions including the Sound of Music and The Wiz.
“When music is a part of a storyline, it just makes you hear and see music differently. I love that angle and that effect that music can have on television or movies,” said Morrison. “It’s a great use of storytelling. I think it’s just getting going. I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. I hope not.”
Matthew Morrison performs with the Houston Symphony March 24-26.