Back to Broadway Page Interview with Matthew Morrison (now in The Light in the Piazza) by Corine Cohen

Lincoln Center Theater (under the direction of Andre Bishop, Artistic Director, and Bernard Gersten, Executive Producer) will continue its 20th Anniversary season with THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, a new musical with book by Craig Lucas, music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and direction by Bartlett Sher. Previews for

begin Thursday, March 17 at 8pm n the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street). Opening night is Monday, April 18 at 6:45pm.


THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA’s cast of 18 will include Glenn Seven Allen, Michael Berresse, Sarah Uriarte Berry, David Bonanno, David Burnham, Victoria Clark, Patti Cohenour, Beau Gravitte, Laura Griffith, Mark Harelik, Prudence Wright Holmes, Jennifer Hughes, Felicity LaFortune, Catherine LaValle, Michel Moinot, Matthew Morrison, Kelli O'Hara and Joseph Siravo.

Where were you born.

I am an Army Brat. I was born at Ft. Ord Army base in Northern California.

What was the moment you realized your passion was acting?

I did a children's theater show called "The Herdman's Go to Camp". (I think that they made it up!) It was when I was visiting family in Arizona when I was about 10 years old. Anyway, It was just a bunch of kids on stage singing and dancing and I had the time of my life.

Who is your mentor?

I've had several in my life. In High School there were two teachers who really paved the way for me and encouraged me to stick with theater. Their names were David Green and Ralph Opacic. As of late, I've been fortunate enough to have mentors in the shows I've done. Dick Latessa, from Hairspray, was and is still a great mentor to me. And while working on the film Once Upon a Mattress, Denis O'Hare was there to offer invaluable advice to me. I think the greatest thing about these mentors is that they wouldn't call themselves mentors. They are just amazing human beings who don't even know that they are inspiring people all around them. I feel lucky to have been in their presence.

Let's talk about "Hairspray". Tell me what it is like to work with the one and only Harvey.

Hairspray was the show that put me on the map and I wouldn't be where I am today without it. I loved every second with that show and the amazing cast that surrounded it. Harvey was like a father, and of course, a mother to us all. We still talk on a regular basis and he is proud of me like I was his very own son.

Tell me about Rocky Horror. What was it like to work with Tom Hewitt?

I was a replacement in Rocky, so I didn't get to work with Tom Hewitt. I got to do the show with Terrance Mann, which was a little more exciting for me because I've always been such a big fan of his. Rocky was like a big playground. I couldn't believe that I was getting paid to go to work every night.

I heard you like extreme sports. Do you have any other hobbies?

I do love extreme sports like skydiving. I just picked up boxing not to long ago. Had a bout with my roommate last November. We both trained for 3 months and then went a couple rounds. It was really intense. When I'm in a show though, I take up less strenuous hobbies like reading and taking in movies!

How did you prepare for Piazza. You go from Teen heartthrob via Elvis to Opera star. How did you prepare?

Piazza was the hardest thing that I've ever taken on thus far in my career. I met with friends who spoke fluent Italian, and even some Italian natives. I just wanted to be enveloped in the language. Then I had to work really hard on my voice to get the sound that they wanted for this show. More of a legit operatic sound with pop under tones. It's nowhere near perfect yet, but I'm happy to say that I pass for an Italian!

Tell me about Jerry Mitchell. The dancing in "Hairspray" is miraculous. Were you exhausted after 8 shows a week?

Jerry Mitchell is a crazy talented individual. I've been lucky to work on many projects with him and I expect to collaborate on many more in the future. It's weird, I'm a lot more exhausted after Piazza than I ever was in Hairspray. In Piazza, it's vocally and emotionally demanding. Hairspray was just physically demanding. I have pretty good stamina, so it wasn't that tiring for me.

The chemistry between you and your leading ladies is exceptional. Tell me are you and Kelli in love? (Do you hear the bells)

I really do fall in love with my leading ladies. I think the offstage relationship is vital to building 'real' chemistry on stage. I just respect the ladies that I work with so much. It didn't matter if Marissa and I were fighting or laughing offstage. We knew what we needed from each other when we got onto that stage and we respected that. Kelli is the same way, and it will just get stronger the more we perform together.

Who do you most admire?

My friends. They are the strongest, most loyal group that anyone could ask for. They keep me grounded and sane. I don't know where I would be without them.

What is next?

Nothing that I'm allowed to talk about right now. But I do have a TV movie called "Once Upon a Mattress" starring Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman coming out sometime in December on ABC.

Any other passions or dreams?

I'm living my dream. If I could do anything else though, I would want to be a midwife, like my father.

I read that you loved Assassins. Is that still your favorite show?

Still my favorite show. I love this show more that anything.

Would you like to star in Assassins?

I actually did the show in High School and I played John Wilkes Booth. I would love to do the show and the part again someday when I'm age appropriate.

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA will be performed Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm. (There is no matinee on Saturday, March 19.) Tickets, priced from $65 to $90, are available at the Lincoln Center Theater box office, by calling Tele-Charge at (212) 239-6200 or by visiting

Photos of Matthew Morrison

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