Hometown: Glen Rock, New Jersey
Currently: Laying all his love on sweetheart Sophie as groom-to-be Sky in the long-running Broadway hit Mamma Mia!
Jersey Boy: Raised in a small town 25 miles west of Manhattan, Morris enjoyed twice-a-year trips to Broadway shows. “My grandmother was a huge musical fan and used to sing songs from Camelot and Man of La Mancha when I was a little kid,” he recalls. But there were no performers in the family…yet. “Actually, my whole family is in dentistry,” Morris says. “My mother is a dental hygienist, her father was a dentist, my brother is a dentist, and my aunt and a couple of my cousins work in my brother’s dental office. I don’t have any problems with my teeth!” A drama class led by a charismatic teacher and a stint in the school chorus sparked his interest in acting. (Both teachers, “Okey” and “Phyllis,” get a shout-out in his Mamma Mia! bio.) “Almost everyone at my high school was involved in the arts in some way, which was pretty special.”
Circle Time: After earning a theater degree at Loyola College in Baltimore, Morris enrolled in the two-year conservatory program at Circle in the Square Theatre, across the street from his current Broadway workplace, the Winter Garden. A showcase performance as “a cocky southern guy mercilessly trying to pick up this girl” netted him an agent. It was the first in a series of charming rogue parts for Morris, but he insists with a laugh, “That’s not me at all—I am very nervous around girls.” (We doubt it.) Quickly, he got his first Broadway break, understudying three roles in the short-lived 2007 epic Coram Boy. “It was a great experience in a gorgeous play,” he says, musing that the show’s poor reviews might have stemmed from misplaced expectations. “It got billed as an intellectual play, but it was really an adventure story of one boy’s journey to adulthood.”
Soap & Spaghetti: Auditioning for all sorts of projects, Morris won the recurring role of bad boy Matt O’Connor on the daytime soap As the World Turns. Though he appeared in less than 50 episodes (and was shipped off to state prison), he attracted enough fans to inspire several YouTube montages to his character. Meanwhile, Morris also began eyeing musicals. “If you can sing, and feel good about doing it onstage, you open yourself up for a lot more opportunities,” he points out. For a workshop of Joe Iconis’ Bloodsong of Love, a rock musical send-up of spaghetti westerns, he created the role of a Clint Eastwood-like musician “who carries a guitar on his back and ends up killing people because the music he plays is so beautiful.” Morris took a two-month leave from Mamma Mia! when Bloodsong got a full production at Ars Nova in April 2010; New York Times critic Charles Isherwood called his performance “charismatic.”
My, My, How Can I Forget You? Morris had the ideal introduction to the cast of Mamma Mia!, joining the megahit at the same time as several other principal actors, including Beth Leavel as Donna and Alyse Alan Louis as Sophie. “It’s fun to play a big-headed surfer who ended up on this island because he fell in love,” he says of Sky. “My character spends the first act excited about his bachelor party and sharing the last night before he gets married with his friends. That’s cool to do every night. The energy of the show is infectious; that’s why people love it so much.” Also infectious: those irresistible ABBA tunes. “For the first couple of months, there was no way to get them out of my mind, but now it’s part of my everyday life—although there are times when I’m going to sleep at night…” (cue “Dancing Queen”).
One of the Boys: The male bonding in Mamma Mia! comes naturally to Morris, who spent the fourth of July at the Jersey Shore with a “tight” group of his childhood friends. “They’re a doctor, a lawyer, a banker and a book editor,” he says. The guys sound like they’re less than impressed with their pal's Broadway accomplishments. “They make fun of me and ask me stupid questions and sing songs at me,” he confesses. “They think what I do is absolutely hysterical.” Away from the theater, the young actor enjoys rooting for the New York Mets and New Jersey Devils and “doing outdoor things like running and hiking. I’m a guy!” A guy who also sings and plays the guitar, skills he hopes will translate to a new show after he leaves Mamma Mia! in October: “I’m going to stay in New York and keep plugging away.”