BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Matthew Morrison and Shoshana Bean
It's that time of year when arts institutions hold their annual galas. This year the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD has a double bill wallop of an evening planned.
On May 4th, two stars of Broadway, TV, movies and the concert stage will put on what promises to be one great evening at Strathmore. Those two performers are today's theatre life subjects.
Most of you probably know Matthew Morrison from his work on Fox's hit television show Glee, but he is also an accomplished stage and film performer and recording artist. Mr. Morrison has been seen on Broadway in Hairspray, South Pacific, Tarzan, The Light in the Piazza, and most recently Finding Neverland. He has received several award nominations for his work.
His solo recordings include his self-titled album and Where it All Began. He can currently be seen on the big screen in the Chinese sci-fi film Crazy Alien.
For theatre aficionados, Shoshana Bean is best known as the first replacement Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway after its original star Idina Menzel departed the show. She then toured with the show for awhile.
Other stage credits include the Chicago production of the musical adaptation of Beaches. Her performance garnered her a Jeff Award nomination for Best Actress. She also received an IRNE Award for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts.
After a hiatus, Shoshana is back on Broadway as Jenna in Waitress through June 2nd.
Her solo albums include Superhero and Spectrum.
For those that think this seeing this kind of musical theatre talent in a gala setting is not affordable, please note that tickets start at the very low price of $38 and your ticket gets you into the FREE after-party. There are not many deals like that around.
Matthew Morrison and Shoshana Bean are two incredible talents. May4th at Strathmore is going to be an evening for the books with these two performing so grab some tickets and see for yourself.
Matthew Morrison (MM) - Who had the most influence on you becoming a performer?
As a performer, Gene Kelly has always had a strong influence on my craft. His sport-like approach to performance was something I always attached to, and "Singing in the Rain" is a song I often perform in tribute to his legacy. As an educator and mentor, Dr. Ralph Opacic was instrumental in helping me make the decision of pursuing a career in the arts. While attending Orange Country High School of the Arts, Ralph was a guiding light when I was deciding between a career in sports and a career in performing arts. I thank him endlessly for his continuous support and encouragement, and I am so proud of what he has accomplished for that school. It truly is a special place.
Shoshana Bean (SB) - Growing up, did you think you were going to become a Broadway performer or were you looking more towards a career in music?
I wanted to do it all!
MM - What was your first professional performing job?
A lot of people are not aware of my Hawaiian roots. My first professional performing job was singing backup for Don Ho in Hawaii. The culture and people have left such an amazing impression on me. If you come to one of my shows, I often bring out the ukulele. I can't wait to get back to Hawaii to perform!
SB - Where did you receive your vocal training?
I studied privately from eighth grade on in Portland.
MM - You made your Broadway debut in Footloose. What do you remember about your audition?
My audition was curated to me a bit. I auditioned for a fake boy band on the David Letterman show and the rest of the guys who got the gig were all in Footloose. And it was choreographed by the choreographer of Footloose. The timing was too perfect because there was a guy in Footloose who was leaving the show around that time. I completed a private audition with the director, Walter Bobbie, so he could see if I had the acting chops. And then I was in my first Broadway show about a month later!
SB - You made your Broadway debut in Hairspray. What do you recall most about your opening night in that show?
I remember the audience and the excitement being positively electric.
SB -What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Everything! Pop, Blues, Classic rock, Soul, Jazz, R&B...
Can you please give us a small idea of what the audience will hear you perform at Strathmore's Spring Gala on May 4th?
MM - On May 4th, we're going to celebrate the music and legacy of some of my favorite stories, artists, and productions. I'm a classic guy when it comes to my musical taste, and I can promise that there will be something for everybody. I'll bring the audience back to my roots, while also celebrating some special songs that I've been working on for a future project.
SB - Mostly songs from my latest album Spectrum.
MM- You have performed in all genres of entertainment (stage/ television/ movies/ concerts). Is any one more enjoyable than the other for you or do you find all of them equally rewarding?
The interaction with a live audience will always be my preferred method of performing. I feed off of the energy from the stage, and for that, my on-stage work and concerts always bring that unique and special feeling of spontaneity. For that one moment in time, the audience and I share in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's very special to me. On the other hand, television has exposed me to such a wider global audience, and if it wasn't for that vehicle, I would not have the opportunity to travel the world performing for people from all backgrounds.
SB- Going in as the very first Broadway replacement for Elphaba in Wicked was there any pressure put on you from the powers-that-be to match what Idina Menzel had done? Were you given some freedom to provide your own take on the role?
None at all. I was encouraged to bring my own truth to it and make it my own.
MM-Many people know you from your work on Glee. When you started work on that project did you have any inkling that the show would become as successful as it did? If yes, how far into the process did it sink in?
I don't think anyone thought it was going to be the huge success it was. I think it was when Oprah invited us on to her show is when I realized we were on to something truly special and influential. I am so proud of what Glee has done for millions of people watching, and what it continues to do for those looking for a voice, a reason, some hope.
SB- You have now returned to Broadway in Waitress. Before this engagement you were gone from Broadway for awhile. Was there a particular reason you took a hiatus and what was appealing about coming back to Broadway in Waitress?
It wasn't an intentional hiatus. I was making records and touring the world. I came back because the show and role spoke to me...It was the right reason and the right opportunity to come back.
MM - Of all of the stage roles you have performed so far what are some of your favorites?
Hairspray "Link Larkin" - An originating role for me; this will always hold a special place in my heart.
The Light in the Piazza "Fabrizio Naccarelli" - having to perform that show half in Italian and half in broken English was an amazing challenge. It pushed me like nothing else before, and it was the most rewarding role as far as pushing personal limits on myself.
Finding Neverland "J.M. Barrie" - My most recent return to the Broadway stage. The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre has some magic in it that can't be explained.
SB- After your engagement in Waitress concludes, what is next for you?
I will be working on my next album.
MM- What advice can you give to someone just starting out in the business of show?
Your craft will only benefit from the time you dedicate to it. Put the hours in, ask for feedback, build your network, and celebrate in every small victory. The entertainment industry is a rewarding one, but one that also brings a lot of rejection. Learn to use that rejection as fuel for your hunger. Put a lot of effort in your relationship building as those connections may help open doors, as well as help you during difficult times. Keep going!
Special thanks to Bucklesweet Media's Director of Public Relations Her Royal Highness (HRH) Amy Killion for her assistance in coordinating this interview.
Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.