Of course you need to be a good singer and a good dancer and all of the things that will help you get hired, but in the end, acting really is the thing that sets people apart from each other.
Although Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is overshadowing many of the other new musicals this Broadway season, one show is peeking, or should I say shining, through the clouds. This beautiful and soul touching musical is Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star which is currently playing at the Cort Theatre. The bluegrass musical features a powerful ensemble lead by Carmen Cusack as the female protagonist Alice. Along her side are A.J. Shively, Hannah Elless, and the amazing Paul Alexander Nolan. In the midst of Tony week, Nolan was kind enough to take the time to speak with us about his impressive theatre career thus far.
In true theatre nerd fashion Nolan knew that his destiny lay on the stage from an early age. Born and raised in Canada, he began performing at the age of twelve in a musical staging of Cheaper by the Dozen. After seeing a production of the musical phenomenon that is Les Miserables, Nolan was convinced that being an actor was the career for him. He continued to train and perform in many Canadian non-profit theatre companies including the Stratford Festival. In 2012, Nolan traveled down to New York City and made his Broadway debut as Jesus in the acclaimed production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.
When asked about his first Broadway experience, Nolan said “That experience was amazing. We brought that in from a production we did in Canada at the Stratford Festival and what was really nice about that experience was that I was really confident about that show: I knew my job and I was good at my job by the time we brought it here, so it took away the nerves of being in this city. It was really cool to represent our theatre in Canada by bringing our show here.”
After leaving Jesus Christ Superstar, Nolan went on to star regionally in Aida at Kansas City Starlight and then returned to Broadway to star in Once and the short lived Doctor Zhivago. Last fall, Nolan made his off-Broadway debut in Daddy Long Legs. The musical, based off the novel by Jean Webster, is the story of Jerusha Abbott, an orphan who is sent to college by an anonymous donor who calls himself John Smith. He only has a few rules that she must follow: she must write to him each month, but he will never respond or open the letters.
Nolan recalls this show warmly, saying “I love the people I did that show with: Megan McGinnis, John Caird, and Paul Gordon to name a few. It was just an awesome group of people and the show is so beautiful. Reading the script, I thought how are we going to do this show? How is this going to be interesting for two and a half hours? But I didn’t worry about it because I knew John Caird was directing it and I had complete confidence in him. In some ways it was a completely terrifying experience because we only rehearsed for twelve days before being in front of an audience and it’s just a two person show. Megan had done the show for years before so she was very familiar with it, but I was really cramming my brain full of this material.”
*Nolan left the show early last fall to play the role of Jimmy Ray Dobbs in Bright Star.
Gianluca- So many people are raving about this musical. What do you think makes people keep coming back to see it?
Nolan- “I think it’s the loss and redemption and the hope in it that keeps people coming back. It’s also sentimental and innocent in the right ways. It’s a complicated little story told so simply and beautifully. I think that audiences can just feel the honesty in it and I think that’s what they respond to.”
Gianluca- There are so many amazing parts of this show. Which would you say is your favorite?
Nolan- “Without question it’s acting across from Carmen Cusack. Once in a while, we are given these gems of artists to work with. This whole production, from the writers to the directing and the choreography, is full of such amazing talent. Carmen likes to work similarly to the way I work in that she shows up and sees what happens that day, and I love that because it makes it alive and exciting and different every time we do the show.”
Nolan left us with his advice for aspiring performers.
“I think that the most important thing as a musical theatre artist is the acting. Of course you need to be a good singer and a good dancer and all of the things that will help you get hired, but in the end, acting really is the thing that sets people apart from each other. Every new musical requires a different kind of acting. If I could do it all again and talk to the twenty-year old Paul, I would definitely go to an intensive acting program.”
Learn more about Paul HERE
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Thanks to Paul Alexander Nolan for the generous interview