A Glee-ful Song and Dance Man
Matthew Morrison looks back to his Broadway days with the ASO

By Lee Valentine Smith

He's known to television and pop culture aficionados as Will Schuester, the affable music teacher from Glee, but Matthew Morrison continues to enjoy a wildly-varied career.

From his earliest days as a Broadway song-and-dance man to challenging dramatic roles in films and on Grey's Anatomy and The Good Wife, the talented actor hasn't been type-cast by his past.

At his rescheduled show with the Atlanta Symphony, this month Morrison will be revisiting his Broadway years with a selection of pop standards with some fancy footwork thrown in for good measure.

During a break from taping The Greatest Dancer in London, INsite caught up with the renaissance man at a hotel in Laguna Beach, California at his 40th birthday celebration.

Besides turning 40, this has been a busy year for you.

The most creative thing I've done so far is that my child just turned one. I'm trying to create my own version of being the best dad I can possibly be and I'm having a great time. It's the best role I'll ever play.

But you have a few increasingly rare live shows on the books, including this month with the ASO.

Yeah, we had a date scheduled a while back and we had to postpone it. Now I'm really excited to get there. I'm working on a lot of new numbers and trying to make it really memorable for the audience. Basically, this is what I do well and I'm happy to share a night of music and dance with Georgia.

You're accustomed to doing live performances on Broadway, but is a symphony show different from that experience?

Yeah, in the theatre the orchestra is usually underneath the stage or somewhere you can't see them. But with the symphony, to have them onstage with me is just more powerful. The only thing I can really associate it to is I sort of feel like a General with an Army. I have this beautiful-sounding Army behind me and I'm front and center, leading my troops. But there's no room for error so I have to be in tip-top shape. I have to be right on it, because there are too many moving parts. Everyone's reading their music and I've gotta stick to my script.

Does that change the program?

There are some songs that don't really lend themselves to the symphony, so I tend to go with the standards, the classics that were just made for the symphony. I love singing those classic songs because they evoke so much emotion with very simple lyrics. Like from Oliver, "As Long As He Needs Me." I used to change it to "As Long As She Needs Me," but after having my son, I was like, 'I wonder if I can turn it back and make it about him. It changed the whole song for me. I feel like going through life and singing these beautiful songs over the years, they constantly change meanings depending on the day I'm singing it. That's the power these timeless songs possess.

You're also doing a reality show in the UK these days.

Yeah and for Atlanta, that day I'll be flying in from London, we're doing the series there. I'll fly right from there to Atlanta. Maybe the jetlag will make me crazy, in the best-possible way.

Can you tell us about the show?

It's a new Simon Cowell show, mostly for the UK and surrounding territories. It's called The Greatest Dancer and it's a search to find the UK's greatest dancers.

Do you like the competitive nature of a show like that?

I don't really like being a judge. Art for me isn't to be judged, it's an expression of self. People express themselves in whatever way they want to evoke something. For me, it's a good way to inspire a future generation, to provide critical feedback to help young artists. It's been a very rewarding and positive experience.

You're obviously best-known from Glee, but you've managed to avoid being type-cast with roles.

Glee has hung on a bit, but it has opened the doors so I can have a career past it. I'll never discredit it, but sometimes people do see me as that happy-go-lucky teacher.

The power of TV is what sold you to the mainstream. Since you've been in their house on television, do people act as if they know you?

It's really interesting. Sometimes people do come up and talk to me like I'm Mr. Schuester. They feel like they call tell me their problems and stuff. I'm a pretty nice guy so I'll try to listen and help whenever I can.

Matthew Morrison performs with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Friday, November 16 at Symphony Hall. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, please visit atlantasymphony.org.

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