It’s early in the day when Matthew Morrison comes to the phone in his upstate New York home and responds to initial pleasantries with, “I’m doing perfectly average, thank you.” Pause. Laughter. “Well I’ve got to give myself room to grow, right? Build my way up there?”
It’s a good first impression of the genial, self-deprecating performer. The fact that the power has been out all morning on him only adds to his momentary lack of determination. “It kind of simplifies things. You just build a fire and play board games.”
Things will rev up when he arrives in The City for the Bay Area Cabaret season opening gala on Sunday as producer Marilyn Levinson celebrates 15 years of concerts, more than half of them at the iconic Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel.
Morrison, who starred as teacher Matt Schuester on “Glee,” the colossal Fox Television hit that made musical theater nerds cool, got that gig based on his genuine musical theater chops; he appeared on Broadway in “Hairspray” and a Tony-nominated turn in “The Light in the Piazza.”
Morrison was back on Broadway in “Finding Neverland,” but he landed his favorite role last year. “It’s incredible,” he says of son Revel James Makai Morrison. “I really came into this thing wanting to be a great father. It’s not as challenging as I thought it was going to be, and a lot more entertaining than I thought it was going to be. I’m so inspired by my son and we’re having the best time.”
Makai? “My wife, Renee is from Hawaii, so each of our kids will have a Hawaiian middle name.”
They’ll also influence the marketing of Sherpapa, his retail start-up of outdoorsy accessories for new fathers. “I realized that there’s nothing out there for guys in the market. Everything is geared toward the mom, which is fully understandable, but guys more than ever are active and proactive members in the parenting process. So, I think we’re seeing this great generational shift. I’m proud to be kind of a spearhead for fathers.”
Marking 20 years in showbiz so far — the theme of his current cabaret act — has him looking beyond the bright lights. “The ownership of your career is really not up to you unless you are making your own stuff happen, which is hard in this business. Your fate is in other people’s hands. I’ve become an entrepreneur and starting a lot of businesses now and I really am finding a great passion for that.”
In other words, see him while you can.
IF YOU GO
Presented by Bay Area Cabaret
Where: Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 30