Fresh from his role on The Greatest Dancer, Matthew Morrison is teaching little ones all about the joys of musical theatre. Here, he reveals more...
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, many parents across the UK have been forced to become teachers overnight, home-schooling their children during lockdown.
Fortunately, there’s been plenty of help at hand as a whole host of famous faces including former Spice Girl Geri Horner, TV chef Heston Blumenthal and The Voice UK’s one-time coach Ricky Wilson have been taking charge of teaching everything from English to Food Science to Art in CBBC’s bite-sized educational series Celebrity Supply Teacher.
And soon it’s time to get those jazz hands at the ready, as The Greatest Dancer’s Matthew Morrison teaches the nation’s little ones all about musical theatre.
Actor, singer and dancer Matthew made his Broadway debut in Footloose in 1998 and also appeared in The Rocky Horror Show before landing his big break as Link Larkin in the Tony award-winning dance-fest Hairspray. In 2009, Matthew became a household name on TV playing teacher Will Schuester in the hit US musical drama Glee.
And now he wants children up and down the country to experience the same joy of musical theatre that he has, as he teaches a step-by-step song and dance routine to Hairspray classic You Can’t Stop The Beat.
We called Matthew, 41, at his home in Los Angeles, to find out more…
Hey Matthew, how are you coping in lockdown?
“Well, we’ve been in lockdown for three months now in the US but then all the Black Lives Matter protests starting happening, so the conversation has somewhat shifted and now it’s almost like people have just forgotten all about Covid-19. It’s certainly an interesting time to be alive!”
Your son Revel is nearly three – presumably you haven’t had to do much home-schooling?
“Yeah and I feel kind of grateful for that because my friends who have older kids are saying it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done and that they’re really struggling with the school work. My ‘school’ right now is just having fun and enjoying family time; we’re doing a lot of ABC puzzles and learning numbers. Being a parent is being a teacher every single day.”
Which brings us neatly onto Celebrity Supply Teacher. Why did you want to get involved in the show?
“I do a lot of mentoring with young people at different colleges around the world to try and invigorate the young artists of tomorrow. I feel like it’s my duty as a performer to pay it forward to the next generation. That was intensified with my role on The Greatest Dancer as a dance captain. I loved having that one-to-one connection with the dancers and, although I don’t have that on this show, I really hope the kids watching will learn something about the love and passion I have for musical theatre.”
Why did you choose to teach younger viewers a song and dance routine to You Can’t Stop The Beat from Hairspray?
“I played the original Link Larkin in Hairspray. It was my first leading role on Broadway and it was the show that changed my life. The message of the song is all about joy and acceptance; of yourself and of others. It’s a song that a lot of people know and I wanted to bring it to younger viewers.”
Did it feel strange performing a routine to a camera at home with no audience?
“Well, I had a lot of information to give and I didn’t have actual kids to bounce things off, so it was little strange and a little challenging. I love seeing that spark in someone, who’s really connected to what you’re saying and has that fire in them to want to learn more.”
When did you first discover your love for musical theatre?
“When I was 10 years old, I was visiting family in Arizona and my parents, aunt and uncle didn’t want to deal with me and my cousin for the summer holidays, so they threw us into this children’s theatre. I was an only child, so I always had a wild imagination but never had an outlet for it. But this was the first time where I really felt like I could use my imagination; I’d stand on a stage and have people listen to me and then they’d clap at the end. I thought: ‘This is the best thing ever!’ That was the moment that it hit me and, after that, I never looked back. I really hope kids can have a similar ‘moment’ from watching this show.”
Thinking back to your own school days, did you enjoy school? Did you have any inspirational teachers?
“I enjoyed aspects of school. I loved my arts classes but I didn’t really enjoy the academic subjects and I think that has a lot to do with some teachers not being passionate about what they’re teaching. However, I remember I had this English teacher, who was so passionate and who made lessons exciting and fun, which really inspired us as students. I’d definitely say I was an A-grade student but, mostly, I wanted to be on stage performing.”
Given your musical theatre background, would you say Glee was the perfect role for when you started out in TV?
“For me, the purity of live theatre is what I crave but Glee was the perfect transition into television for me because, as a cast, we were basically putting on huge musical performances every week! People still call me ‘Mr Schue’ all the time but I don’t mind.”
We’ve enjoyed watching you as a dance captain on The Greatest Dancer. Are you sad the show won’t be returning?
“Yeah, I think it was such a great show. The BBC put a huge budget behind it and it grabbed a very devoted audience every week and I just heard it’s been nominated for a BAFTA award, too! To come over and live in London for three months of the year, two years in a row, was an extraordinary experience for me and my family.”
Finally, what advice would you give a young person thinking about a career in showbusiness? And would you like your son to follow in your footsteps?
“I feel it’s hard to give advice because everyone is so different; everyone’s gonna have their own path. So my advice would be to just ‘be you’. There’s only one of each of us, so we should all really embrace our individuality and lead with that. My son is already singing and dancing just because that’s what we do in our house. It’s a really tough business so I’m not pushing him in any direction but I will support him in whatever he wants to do.”
Celebrity Supply Teacher continues Monday June 29 at 9.25am on CBBC.