Matthew Morrison was born on October 30, 1978 in Fort Ord, California. He attended NYU where he studied at the Tisch School of the Arts, but dropped out after being cast in the Broadway show Footloose. His breakthrough came with the musical Hairspray, which ran for more than 2,600 performances and won eight Tony Awards. Morrison played Will Schuester on the hit television series Glee for several seasons before returning to Broadway in 2015 to star in Finding Neverland as J.M. Barrie.
Actor. Born on October 30, 1978, in Fort Ord, California, Matthew Morrison grew up in a military family. While he describes himself as an "Army brat," Morrison had an unusual upbringing in some ways. "My dad is a nurse midwife, one of about only 50 male midwives in the U.S., I think. So my birds-and-bees talk consisted of him bringing home books with pictures of all these sexually transmitted diseases," he told Elle magazine.
At a young age, Morrison developed an interest in performing after attending theater camp. He later attended the Orange County High School of the Arts. There he showed great promise as a performer and as a soccer player. "In my sophomore year of high school I had to choose between soccer or singing," he explained to Parade magazine. "I think I chose the right one but it was probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make."
Passion for Music
After graduating high school, Morrison moved to New York City to attend New York University. There he studied musical theater, dance, and vocal performance at the Tisch School of the Arts. Morrison dropped out of college in the late 1990s after being cast in the Broadway musical Footloose. Based on the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose tells the story of a teenage boy who moves to a repressive small town where dancing and listening to rock 'n' roll is forbidden. Morrison was a member of the ensemble, and an understudy for one of the roles. A small part in a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show soon followed.
Around this time, Morrison tried to break into the music business as a member of a boy band called LMNT. But the group failed to take off. Morrison's real career breakthrough came in 2002 with the musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film of the same name. Marissa Jaret Winokur starred in the show as Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized teen who fights for integration on a 1960s television dance show and falls for a teen heartthrob named Link Larkin (played by Morrison). The original cast also included Harvey Fierstein as Tracy's mother Edna. The musical proved to be a huge commercial and critical hit, running for more than 2,600 performances and garnering eight Tony Awards.
In addition to his theatrical career, Morrison found time to tackle some other acting parts. He made guest appearances on such television shows as Sex and the City and Hack. On the big screen, Morrison had his film debut in 2003 with a small role in the comedy Marci X starring Lisa Kudrow. He even tried his hand at soap operas, appearing on As the World Turns in 2006.
Still, Morrison remained primarily a stage actor. In early 2004, he left the cast of Hairspray, and a year later starred in the original musical Light in the Piazza. Morrison starred as Fabrizio Naccarelli, a young Italian man, who falls in love with an American tourist. The musical, by Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel, netted several Tony Award nominations, including Morrison's first nod for Best Actor Featured in a Musical. To prepare for the role, Morrison "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," he explained to the nyctourist.com website.
Morrison soon appeared in another original musical, 10 Million Miles, off-Broadway in 2007. Based on the songs of Patty Griffin, the show follows a mechanic named Duane as he goes on a road trip with his former girlfriend Molly. Morrison liked playing Duane, explaining to Paper magazine that "it was kind of a different character that I haven't played before so I was excited for the challenge—I've always kind of played the secondary character in shows and stuff and its kind of a change to be at the forefront of things." Around this time, Morrison got engaged to actress Chrishell Stause. The couple later split.
Stars in 'Glee'
In 2008, Morrison moved to another starring role, this time in the Broadway revival of Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers' South Pacific. He then landed his most famous role to date on the musical comedy series Glee the following year. The show explores the misadventures of a high school glee club. Morrison plays Will Schuester, a teacher who heads up the much-maligned club.
"If I could have created a TV show for myself, this would have been it. So this is a dream job for me," Morrison explained to Parade magazine. "It's great to see the crossover of Broadway on television. Actually, when I auditioned, I didn't try to belt out a big show-stopper. I came in and sang 'Over the Rainbow' accompanying myself on the ukulele. I guess it worked."
Members of the glee club include overeager aspiring star Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele) and top athlete Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) among others. The club faces intense opposition from the cheerleading coach (Jane Lynch). Glee has won over legions of fans, sometimes known as "Gleeks," with its fantastic musical numbers. The show has featured music from such artists as Madonna and Journey. Their cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" was the most downloaded track on iTunes the day after it was featured in an episode. The series ran for six seasons.
Recording Career and Return to Broadway
In addition to starring on a hit television show, Morrison has worked on his own music. He signed a recording deal with Mercury Records in early 2010 and released his self-titled debut album the following year. According to an interview in Parade magazine, the album is "sort of in the style of Michael Buble, or maybe you could call it Dean Martin-esque. It's just me and a big orchestra doing some standards and original songs." In 2013 he released an album of standards, Where It All Began, as well as a Christmas EP.
In 2015 Morrison returned to the Broadway stage, portraying famed playwright J.M. Barrie in a new musical, Finding Neverland, giving a rousing performance on that year's Tony Awards telecast.
Morrison married his longtime girlfriend, model Renee Puente on October 18, 2014 in Hawaii.
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