Glee star performs with PSO
Sporting a pair of suspenders, colorful dance moves, and his signature “chin butt,” as Sue Sylvester calls it, Glee’s Matthew Morrison took the stage of Heinz Hall on Saturday with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as part of the PNC Pops series.
This was the first Pops concert of the season, as well as the first without the late Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch. The memory of Hamlisch sobered the otherwise gaiety-filled concert, but conductor Lucas Richman handled the somber moments well, keeping them poignant but brief: He conducted a beautiful piece “Marvin style,” and kept a spotlight on an empty podium.
Before Morrison took the stage, the orchestra presented a lively, charming first half, plunging into Broadway with the overture from Pretty Girl. Perky and fun, the piece soared and swelled, engaging even the audience members who hadn’t seen the movie.
The second piece, a compilation of romantic cinema songs called Romancing the Cinema: Great Love Songs from the Movies, was put together by Richman. As the highlight of the concert, the compilation featured “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King, among others. The orchestra outdid itself with this piece, with personal touches from a percussion section that could only be called perfection on drums and a strings section that set souls alight.
Morrison was accompanied by composer Brad Ellis, playing the piano just as he does as the silent accompanist in Glee. Morrison whirled through Broadway favorites and quintessential classics from the jazz songbook, ranging from “Lady is a Tramp” from Babes in Arms to a medley from Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story to the adaptation of the famous Mexican mambo, “Sway.”
Morrison’s theatricality was a key part of his performance, both while he was singing and vamping between pieces. He showed off his signature dance moves, at one point dropping down and breakdancing — yes, breakdancing in Heinz Hall — and descending from the stage to make a young girl’s day by sweeping her into a short dance in the aisle.
The small talk he presented for filler between songs was cheesy at best, especially the clearly scripted exchanges with the pianist. That said, the man is a singer, not a stand-up comic, and the older audience ate it up. He appeared to be in character the entire performance. Although his voice was lovely — as always — and his feet were hypnotizing, his performance felt forced and canned.
The accompaniment was perfect down to the last note, providing exactly the kind of support that every singer should get. The music seamlessly blended with Morrison’s voice and provided a wonderful backdrop for a tour through musical theater history. Richman and the orchestra outdid themselves with this performance, especially in the first half.
Morrison was a charismatic, if unoriginal, performer with an incredible amount of vocal power. Invigorating and interesting, the concert left nothing to be desired from the incredible orchestra and conductor, and satisfied the Broadway cravings of a fall afternoon.