Posted by TNicholas | Filed under Shows
A few weeks ago I did a Q & A for the Dominion Post, the newspaper in my hometown of Morgantown WV about my joining the cast of Aladdin on Broadway. We also covered a lot about me leading up to this point. Yesterday the article ran and I wanted to share it as well as the Q &A that helped produce it!
Were you always interested in acting and performing?
I’ve been interested in performing since I was a kid, around age 8 or 9. I always had an excess of energy and my parents were forgiving and supportive enough to funnel that energy into something positive as opposed to trying to stifle or mute it. My mom and dad exposed me to all types of theatre when I was young, it was like magic. I always loved movies, still to this day, but getting to see people, live, in front of you, was on another level. An actors ability to make me laugh and feel right in front of my face was so addicting, it was something I had to do myself. So my dad one afternoon drove me down High Street to the Monongalia Arts Center and signed me up for a Children’s Improv Acting Class taught by Hillary Phillips. From then on, everything shifted. Performing was no longer something I would witness, or present for relatives in the basement. It was a real, tangible thing that I could immerse myself in.
Are there other entertainers in your family that might have sparked your interest to become an entertainer?
My father, Bobby Nicholas, has been singing all over Morgantown, and the rest of the state of WV, and the rest of the country, and even some other countries longer than I’ve been around! Getting to go see my dad sing somewhere was like an extra Christmas as a kid, especially in the Summers when he would perform outside. When I was young my mom would take me to different outdoor venues to see my dad sing. We would eat great food, dance, laugh and eventually my mom would nudge me in the direction of my father to join him on stage for a song. I would usually pretend to protest at first, when honestly, it was my favorite part. I had 4 or 5 songs always ready to go that I would sing with my dad. We’d croon our way through a Country or Classic Standard tune, I’d soak up my applause, then run back to my mom to swim in more accolades. At that time, my dad was a real life super hero. I watched the way he interacted with the audience. The way, whether he was singing or not, he was always in complete control of the room. All eyes were on him. That was what I idolized the most. When I got into my mid-late teens, going to see my dad perform in the Summer became an event I would bring my friends too. I was so proud to show them what he did so well, and what I, on some level, wanted to do myself. As I got into college and began focussing on acting professionally, I stopped going to see my dad as much. His career was shifting into a more elegant and notarized position and I felt myself wanting to push past what my father had accomplished. I loved my dad, I admired his talent and the career he had created through hard work and dedication, but I wanted to be so much more than that.
I heard that you were involved in the Morgantown Theatre Company, can you expand on that and your time spent with them?
I was deeply involved with Morgantown Theatre Company and Hillary Phillips from my first class at 8 or 9 years old, up through and finishing at Morgantown High School in 2001. Even after that, while attending WVU, I would come back and work with and on different projects. Years later, in 2012 I came back and did a production of Ragtime with them. Morgantown Theatre Company and programs like it are, for me, one of the most important staples for any community. The genius and passion of Hillary Phillips has exposed countless children and adults to the arts, to music, to people and cultures they may have never truly known. Hillary has an innate ability to find the talent in every person that walks through her doors. I believe that there are strengths and lessons that can only be unlocked through true exposure to the arts. She and her remarkable theatre company have been doing that for years.
Do you credit them for where you are now?
I place the credit for where I am today on a few heads. Absolutely the time I spent with Hillary Phillips and Morgantown Theatre Company are at the top of that list. My mother, Doris Nicholas as well, deserves just as much credit. She has always been my biggest supporter and my most honest critic. When I explained to my parents that acting was something I planned to do for a living they weren’t surprised. My dad, wisely, suggested I steer in a different, more stable career direction. My mother always understood that this was the only path that was truly for me. The support I’ve received from my mom goes beyond financial, which it has been, and into the sturdiest of emotional foundations. When I’ve questioned myself (which all actors do), when I’ve taken hits to my ego (which all actors do), my mother has always been there. Putting everything into perspective and inspiring me to keep pushing. The two astounding human beings that made me, and raised me, and loved me are the reason I am who I am, and where I am today.
What would you say was your big break into the acting world?
I’ve had a few things that I guess I could call a “Big Break”. When I was 19 I booked my first professional show. I left school for a semester to perform as Jim in the National Tour of Big River. At 22 I joined Actor’s Equity, our phenomenal union, when I performed at Walt Disney World in Orlando FL. I’ve had the privilege of helping create some future Broadway shows with Super Fly: The Musical and Marley. I’ve gotten to perform all kinds of different roles all over the world, including Germany and Japan. Most recently I made my Broadway debut which has been absolutely incredible. I don’t know if any of these really constitute a “Big Break”, but they have all helped mold an early career that I’m very proud of.
Can you tell us what project on Broadway you are working on now?
I am currently the Standby for The Genie in Aladdin on Broadway.
Explain what a normal day on Broadway consist of.
Well for me, as a Standby, my day consists of being ready at a moments notice to go on. I am at the theatre for every performance, backstage watching and listening to the show. If at any point James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie and gained a Tony Award for his portrayal, is unable to perform the show, I will. This includes if he’s on vacation, or ill, or has scheduled days off. Part of my being ready to go on is maintaining the look of the character and keeping myself physically able to jump in on short notice. I usually know 7 hours or so ahead of time if I’m going on, but there have been instances where I find out later in the day (or even during the show) that I’ll be performing as the Genie.
If I am going on for the Genie I have a very specific ritual I’ve built for myself that I follow. My breakfast is always the same; three scrambled eggs with mushrooms and turkey sausage. A couple hours before the show I drink a fresh vegetable juice and begin physically and vocally warming up. One hour before showtime I get my makeup done and partial costume put on. Then I do a second physical warm up before the curtain.
I also cover two other roles in the show; Babkak, one of Aladdin’s friends, and The Sultan.
What do you see in your future?
The ultimate dream, of course, would be to win a Tony Award for a character that I get to create and grow with. To connect with an audience and be given the highest of acknowledgements for my work. To forge my own brand of immortality and leave an impact on this business. But on a simpler level, in my future I hope to see plenty of more excitement on the stage and hopefully the screen as well. I’m interested in pushing into the television and film market. There’s a huge boom right now for things being filmed in the New York City area. I hope my future is full of opportunity and joy.
What would be your dream job?
My dream job is an ever evolving creature. I have the “Performer’s Curse” of Terminal Dissatisfaction that drives me, and others like me, to always keep growing and adapting and pushing forward. Where I am now, on Broadway as a Principle Character in an incredible show, has always been my dream and now I’ve accomplished it. I am beyond grateful and overwhelmed with happiness from meeting that goal, but, just like the joy I found in my dads accomplishments when I was younger, I want something more. My new “dream job” is to always have more dreams to chase after. The excitement is in the journey for me and, hopefully, I’m just getting started.
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Morgantown, WV. Born and raised. 🙂
What did you study at WVU?
At WVU I began as a Vocal Performance major and later switched to an Acting major in the fabulous College of Creative Arts.
Do you enjoy where you are in life?
I very much enjoy where I am in life. I have an immensely supportive wife and two beautiful kids who have suffered the worst and best of me. They’ve stayed on board with me through my mistakes, through hardships, through confusion and also through triumph. They have seen me at my highest highs and my lowest lows. Now, more than ever, I appreciate and love them for who they are and what they are willing to forgive in me. My family is the root of my happiness. Getting to see my children’s eyes light up when I’m on stage, getting to see my wife swell with pride, these are the largest highlights of my life right now. The incredible show I get to perform on a regular basis is bonus.