'Glee' Guy Matthew Morrison On His First Love: Broadway Long before became known as Will Schuester — the lovable Spanish teacher and show choir director on TV's Glee — Morrison was dancing and singing, garnering Tony nods for his work on the Broadway stage.

'Glee' Guy Matthew Morrison On His First Love: Broadway

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If you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR NEWS. I'm Jacki Lyden. And it's time now for music.


MATTHEW MORRISON: (Singing) Tonight, tonight won't be just any night.

LYDEN: That's actor Matthew Morrison singing "West Side Story Medley." Now, you may know him as Mr. Schuester on the TV show "Glee." His new album, "Where It All Began," is a tribute to the classic Broadway standards that he grew up listening to and eventually performing. Morrison fell in love with the theater at the age of 10 after his aunts and uncle encouraged him to try acting.

MORRISON: They kind of threw me and my cousin into this children's theater kind of thing in a production I'm sure you've heard of called "The Herdmans Go To Camp."


MORRISON: But I - I don't know. It was that moment that the lights hit me, and I felt so comfortable standing in front of a room full of strangers. And ever since then, that feeling has never gone away, and I never want to let go of that.

LYDEN: What, you mean, you kind of made your bones, I suppose you could say, with "Glee," but you attended New York University's famous Tisch School of the Arts for a couple of years before you joined the Broadway adaptation of "Footloose."

MORRISON: Yeah. I went to NYU for two years before getting "Footloose" on Broadway when I was 19. And I inevitably ended up dropping out of school.

LYDEN: Was that a hard decision?

MORRISON: Not at all. They had a very strict no-audition policy, but I kind of went against that and just said, "You know, I'm just going to go for it." And sure enough, my third audition, I got the job.

LYDEN: Wow. And "Where It All Began," an homage to your own love of Broadway and where it all begins for you. So this is your second album and so many great covers on it from "Younger Than Springtime" from the musical "South Pacific," which you starred in on Broadway - "Singing in the Rain." Let's listen to your version of "Singing in the Rain".


MORRISON: (Singing) I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again. I'm laughing at clouds so dark up above. The sun's in my heart and I am ready for love.

LYDEN: It's a big number to tackle, Matthew, and you did perform it on "Glee," and you did this mash-up with Rihanna, a version of "Umbrella."

MORRISON: "Umbrella," yeah.

LYDEN: So what made you want to record it again for your album?

MORRISON: This is the song for me that is a big tribute to my idol, Gene Kelly. He's the guy that kind of made dance cool for me. You know, I love Fred Astaire too. I love watching him dance, but he is the aristocrat.

LYDEN: He's an aristocrat, exactly, "Top Hat."

MORRISON: Yes. And Gene Kelly is the proletarian. He's the very average, blue-collar worker. And I guess he reimagined dance for me. He made it a guy's sport. And that really, you know, kind of set me off.


MORRISON: (Singing) Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place. Come on with the rain. I've a smile on my face. I'll stroll down the lane with a happy refrain. I'm dancin' and singin' in the rain.

LYDEN: How did you decide what to include in this album? There's one here that I really love and that is "On The Street Where You Live" from "My Fair Lady." The way you sing that song is just so beautiful.

MORRISON: Thank you. You know, that's one of my favorite songs in the album. I love singing that song. It is actually the song I sang for every single audition I've ever had in my life, including "Glee." That is like my go-to audition song.


MORRISON: (Singing) Are there lilac trees in the heart of town? Can you hear a lark in any other part of town? Does enchantment pour out of every door? No, it's just on the street where you live.

You know, it's got a great story. It's about a guy who is in love with a girl but the girl doesn't know or care that he's alive. But, you know, this guy is suffering, but he suffers so beautifully that you almost don't want it to end. I mean he might, but... (Laughing) But, you know, it's just a good storytelling. You don't find that in music so much these days. I feel like I can act these songs. And that - that's a great power to have on stage, to have such a great story that you're not just standing up there and just singing a song. You can act these songs, which I love to do.


MORRISON: (Singing) People stop and stare. They don't bother me. For there's no where else on Earth that I would rather be. Let the time go by, I won't care if I can be here on the street where you live. I am here on the street where you live. On the street where you live.

LYDEN: I'm speaking with actor and singer Matthew Morrison. He's got a new album out. It's called "Where It All Began."


LYDEN: Can we just talk about another one that I really love, and that's from "Oliver!," "As Long As She Needs Me." And I just love the yearning in that song.

MORRISON: Oh, yeah.


MORRISON: (Singing) She doesn't act as though she cares.

That song, it's typically sung by a woman, but who says men can't feel the same passion and despair that women can? Women say it, that's who. No.


MORRISON: No, I was kidding.

LYDEN: Take the words out of my mouth.

MORRISON: No, but I mean, you know, some men are willing give up everything for the woman they love. And I just love singing this song. It's so beautiful. One of the most beautiful songs I feel like I've ever had the opportunity to sing.


MORRISON: (Singing) As long as she needs me I know where I must be. I'll cling on steadfastly as long as she needs me. As long as life is long I'll love her right or wrong. And somehow I'll be strong as long as she needs me.

LYDEN: Matthew Morrison, although you've starred on Broadway in many successful shows, you were nominated for a Tony for your performance in "The Light In The Piazza." And I think it's safe to say that probably a lot of people know you from Fox TV's "Glee" where you play Will Schuester, the high school Spanish teacher and the glee club leader. Let's take a look at the scene from the show where you're singing Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."

MORRISON: Really? All right.



MORRISON: (as Mr. Schuester) (Singing) All right, stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is back with a brand-new invention, something grabs a hold of me tightly flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will it ever stop, yo, I don't know. Turn off the lights and I'll glow. To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal light up the stage and wax a chump like a candle.

LYDEN: What made you cringe just now when I said let's go to "Ice Ice Baby"?

MORRISON: You know, I said there's great storytellers and rappers, like Eminem and stuff. Vanilla Ice, probably not included in that category.


MORRISON: It's just silly. It's silly.

LYDEN: So you've got this new album, and I would imagine it's got you thinking. Any plans to return to Broadway?

MORRISON: Absolutely. I mean, that's been in my plans the whole time, especially now having done Broadway, having done recording, having done television, having done film, I feel so lucky to have kind of gotten to experience all of them. But it's made me definitely realize that my heart is on the stage. And I love live theater, I love the interaction with the audience, and it's something that I'm thirsting to get back to.

LYDEN: Yeah. Well, Matthew Morrison, it's been a great pleasure to talk to you.

MORRISON: Likewise. I had a great time. Thank you for having me.

LYDEN: Thank you. Actor and singer Matthew Morrison. His new album is called "Where It All Began." And it's out now.


MORRISON: (Singing) I guess when you met me it was just one of those things. But don't ever...

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