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Before the pandemic, Matthew Morrison was burned out from performing on stage. After being shut in for so long, however, he is more passionate than ever about putting on performances like the one in the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. Morrison, accompanied by the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Chris Walden, performed a number of Broadway, jazz, and other popular standards, showcasing not only his own versatility, but also that of the GSO – a classical orchestra playing very non-classical music.
Morrison has always been inspired by the work of Gene Kelly, and that can be seen in how he carries himself on stage, twirling through the air while still controlling his vocals masterfully. He has been perfecting his craft since he was ten years old, and the decades of work shone throughout the entire concert. It would also be easy to feel separated from a performer who has been nominated for Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Awards, but Morrison made everyone, including the other performers, feel at home and comfortable with him. During any given song, he could be seen moving along the entire width of the stage conversing with the orchestra or jumping onto the conductor's podium beside Walden. He even went as far as to dance with a young girl in the front row of the audience. In between each song, the audience also learned more and more about Matthew Morrison the man, instead of just Matthew Morrison the "star of stage and screen." He would tell stories about his time working on Broadway shows in New York or about his children, Revel and Phoenix. He mentioned that his North Carolinian mother was in attendance and that he has seriously considered moving to the state himself. Before a performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Morrison said he looks for local up-and-coming talent in the cities where he performs and brought out local actress Madison Barrier to share the stage in a duet. In a large concert hall full of people dressed to the nines and backed by a large symphony orchestra, it still felt like a friend putting on an intimate performance, and it was clear to see that he cares deeply about keeping the arts alive, especially in the next generation.
Glee was a show I grew up watching, so it was both fascinating and exciting to be able to watch Morrison work and perform live. There is no doubt in my mind that a good portion of the audience in the Tanger Center was familiar with his role as Mr. Schuester or a fan of his work on Broadway. The people in attendance, no matter what age, seemed to all be Matthew Morrison fans. At one point, during a particularly quiet moment between songs, someone shouted "I love you, Matthew!" His reaction, naturally, was just to chuckle and say he loved them too. Morrison embraces his Broadway and Glee past. He even brought along Brad Ellis – or, as Glee fans will know him, "Brad the Piano Player" – to accompany him. Morrison knows, however, that no one wants to see a one-dimensional performance. Fans that only know his work from Glee got to see some of his Broadway repertoire. His Broadway fans got to see him interact with jazz standards and even some classic Disney music. As for myself, I enjoyed the wide variety of music performed and was glad I got to see his jazzier side, which I was not very familiar with beforehand.
When Morrison provided his own comedic third-person introduction to start off the show, he said he would be performing in "the role he was born to play." Because that role is himself. No matter what opinion someone may hold of him, no one can argue that his performances and interpretations, from Mr. Schuester to The Grinch, are uniquely Matthew Morrison.