Matthew Morrison is returning to the stage — kind of.
Although Morrison, who stars as earnest, kind and curly-haired teacher Will Schuester in the popular Fox TV series "Glee," has no time to return to Broadway where he began his career, he is at least making time to perform live in concert, singing show tunes, standards and pop songs that resonate with the actor-singer.
Morrison, 34, shed his TV character's signature sweater-vest for something more crooner-elegant when he performed with a full orchestra Friday, Nov. 16, at the 800-seat Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.
The show was filmed by Connecticut Public Television and will be broadcast at a later date. It marks the second time this fall that Morrison has stepped out of his TV role to return to the concert stage. In September he gave a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops.
"I've been itching to get back on stage," he says in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. "There's no greater joy for me than performing live."
But he says he's a bit apprehensive with only one previous concert under his belt before the PBS filming in Hartford.
Morrison says he enjoyed going through the musical theater catalog — as well as his pop music collection — to select the material for this concert. "I chose the songs that spoke to me," he says. "I also give the songs a different kind of spin."
He says the songs — many from his new, yet-untitled CD recording due in February — weave a story that's personal to him.
One of the songs in the show is "On the Street Where You Live," which was the tune that Morrison used as his audition number when he was trying out for Broadway shows. But Morrison's version is more upbeat, "kind of like a Sammy Davis Jr. version."
There's also a mash-up of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Basin Street Blues," a six-minute "West Side Story" medley, "The Lady is a Tramp" and a few songs that are associated with his career, such as "Younger Than Springtime," which he sang in the celebrated revival of "South Pacific" at Lincoln Center.
Morrison says he is able to do a few concerts this fall because, though he is busy shooting the fourth season of "Glee," his character is not in as many episodes. Schuester is on "an arts sabbatical to help arts education in the nation."
Morrison says his course in life was set when he was in the fifth grade when he was visiting his grandparents in Glendale, Ariz. He and his cousin "were deposited at a children's theater program. "I was forever changed. It's so great when you find your passion."
Another turning point when he switched gears from sports to musical theater (like the character of Finn in "Glee") and switched schools to attend Orange County High School of the Performing Arts where he literally found his voice, After graduation from high school, Morrison was off to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University but an opportunity to be in a professional production — not allowed while in school — made him leave university life in order to start his career sooner rather than later.
In 1998-99 he toured in the national company of "Footloose," followed by a role in the 2000 Broadway company of "The Rocky Horror Show." There was also a stint when he was part of a boy band group, LMNT.
Morrison's big break came when he got a part in the ensemble of the 2002 musical "Hairspray." When the show was in its pre-Broadway engagement in Seattle, the actor playing Link Larkin left for a film role when and Morrison stepped in and landed the part for himself — with the help of booster Marissa Jaret Winokur, who was the lead in the show.
That was followed in 2006 by the romantic lead in another new musical, "The Light in the Piazza," in which he received a Tony Award nomination. In 2008, he then played the romantic heartthrob Lt. Cable in the revival of "South Pacific,' both under the direction of Bartlett Sher (who was an associate artistic director under Mark Lamos in the '80s at Hartford Stage).
"I was in heaven for 'South Pacific'. The whole show, top to bottom, affects you on such a deep level."
Then "Glee" came calling in 2009.
Misses Performing Live