Monday, 25 April 2016

Big Interview: Nicholas Corre

Nicholas Corre is currently starring in Maltby & Shire's revue Closer Than Ever at The Pheasantry between 25th and 27th April 2016. 

Premiering in Massachusetts in 1989, Closer Than Ever soon opened off-Broadway where it played for 300 performances. It returned to New York off-Broadway in 2012 and last played London in 2014 at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Nicholas recently starred as Harold in the first London revival of Bar Mitzvah Boy (Upstairs at the Gatehouse/Radlett Centre). His theatre credits also include The Book of Mormon (West End) and the UK premiere of Dogfight (Southwark Playhouse).

During a break from rehearsals, I recently spoke to Nicholas about anyone being able to relate to Closer Than Ever, the audience response to Bar Mitzvah Boy and what made going into The Book of Mormon so nerve-wracking. We also discussed his mum’s distinct laugh, dream roles and much more…

What were your first impressions when you heard about this production of Closer Than Ever?
I hadn’t heard of the show, but obviously I’m familiar with the writers Maltby and Shire. I frantically searched around on the internet, but there’s isn’t really anything apart from one cast recording from the 90s and a list of the songs on Wikipedia. I was going in blind! I’d worked with our MD Nick (Barstow) before, and thought it sounded like a really fun opportunity to get involved in something new and so different to what I’ve done before.

So what has it been like to discover this material from a fresh perspective?
To come in and create something fresh is always exciting, I think it’s the reason we all get into performing in the first place. The material is wonderful. I think the range in the score is incredible, it goes from your classical lyrical ballads to your Sondheim crunchy chords and everything in-between. It’s exciting as a performer, but it’s also exciting just to listen to. It’s such a different flavour and such a different style – certain parts feel like a classic. 

What can audiences expect?
I think they will come away really feeling for the piece, it expresses a lot of different points in people’s lives. Somewhere, regardless of your age or experiences, there will be at least one moment and one song where you’ll go, ‘that happened to me’. The first song really pulls people in, and from that moment on people can just sit back, relax and enjoy it.

Nicholas in The Book of Mormon

How have you found your solo songs?
It has been really fun because I’ve got both ends of the spectrum; I’ve got a fast upbeat comedy number and two lovely lyrical ballads. It has been fun to stretch myself to both ends. Naturally I lean towards the lyrical stuff… I think we all do… but it’s really nice to test myself. I’ve enjoyed singing it, they’re beautiful songs!

What has everyone been like to work with?
They’re all brand new people to me! I worked with our MD Nick on a concert last year, but everybody else is new. We all have very different voices, but together it actually forms a really nice blend which you might not expect. We have a really good bunch of people! It has been a nice environment which makes things easier.

How are you feeling about performing in the intimacy of The Pheasantry? The front row will literally be eating pizza under your nose!
[laughs] I love that intimate feel! I had an incredible time on The Book of Mormon, but I did at times feel a little bit disconnected because we’re so far away. Both Dogfight and Bar Mitzvah Boy had the audience on three sides so they were all around you which I enjoyed – you can feel what the audience are feeling and you know you’re taking them with you. 

Cast of Bar Mitzvah Boy
Is it scarier though? What happens if you have family or friends on the front row?
Absolutely. My mum will be sat as far away as humanly possible from the stage! If there’s a corner, she will be sat in it [laughs]! Partly because she has a very distinct laugh, and I’m very aware of it. If you know someone and they’re right in front of you the pressure is intense. 

I think your mum should sit on the front row!
[laughs] I’m sure she’ll read this and immediately decide to sit right at the front!

Could you hear her laughing during Bar Mitzvah Boy?
I could hear her laughing from the dressing room… I probably would have been able to hear her from my house! I told the cast she was in on that day and they all knew who she was straight away. 

Did you enjoy doing the Bar Mitzvah Boy? 
It’s a wonderful show and a lot of fun. I feel like I’ve found myself getting lucky over and over again because we had a bunch of people who naturally got on – it was the same with Dogfight and Mormon too. It’s very rare, so makes the experience so much easier. It was nice coming out of Mormon and going back to creating something and having lines and a character. Also, it’s now rare in musical theatre to have a song where you’re on your own onstage. That’s a whole new skill and pressure for me. It was a challenge! When we got big Jewish crowds in, the laughter added five or ten minutes onto the show. But also I think it was relatable to everyone – we’ve all gone through something a bit hectic. 

I love Sue Kelvin – she was so amazing!
Sue Kelvin is a wonder of a woman. She is an entity all to herself. Her number at the start of act two truly was like her own show! She’s a wonderful woman with a heart of gold. What she does onstage speaks for itself.

What was it like to go into such a massive show like The Book of Mormon?
It was definitely scary and nerve-wracking, especially because it was my first West End show. But as soon as we sat down on day one after meeting everyone and started working on it I went, ‘Ok, there’s a reason why I’m here… I went through god knows how many auditions’. I was lucky because it was a big cast change. If it was a smaller cast change it would have been difficult, but because there were so many of us it almost felt like creating a new show again.

Nicholas & the cast of Dogfight

The response that show receives every night is crazy – audience members make the strangest sounds!
…and we’re very much aware of them onstage [laughs]. People might think that because they’re sat at the back of the gods we couldn’t hear their crazy laugh… but we definitely could [laughs]. It was incredible! I remember the feeling when we did the bows after our very first show and a thousand people were on their feet applauding and laughing. To feel a part of that was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It was phenomenal! Over time there’s a different feel – you don’t have the same excitement that you had on the first night nine months into the run, but you have this whole community backstage. I made some amazing friends on the show, and we all kept each other going. I enjoyed the whole year. I had never done a show for that long before, I think that in itself is a skill. Some people stay on in shows like Phantom for nine or ten years – it’s about finding ways to make every show enjoyable. 

Dogfight got everyone talking, was that an overwhelming experience?
It was, but it was also lovely to get people talking! We all had a really strong connection with the piece and how we presented it. There was definitely a buzz around it, and we felt so passionately about the story we were telling. Having so many people talking about such a small show was phenomenal! We had an amazing cast and an incredible creative team. We were able to come into the space, play and build something. It felt like our show. We still all see each other! I had done some workshops, but it was my first musical after graduating – it was a life changing experience for me. It will always be special to me. 

I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you. What are you going to take and why?
Oh gosh… the moment when you know this question’s coming and you still haven’t figured out an answer [laughs]. Ok, I think first of all I would have to take ‘Jet Song´ from West Side Story. I grew up listening to that – there were two musical theatre CDs my mum would play all the time, West Side Story and Les Mis. As a non-dancer, West Side Story has always been a bit of a dream which is never going to happen [laughs], but it’s just a wonderful score.

I think… I would take ’96,000’ from In The Heights. I’m a huge fan of In The Heights, and now of Hamilton too – I can’t wait for it to come over next year. Seeing In The Heights at Southwark and then again at King’s Cross, ’96,000’ is the moment you want to get up onstage with them.

My last one… ohhhh… I’m struggling! ‘It's Hard to Speak My Heart’ from Parade because it’s a dream role for me – at some point I would love to do that show. I cannot listen to or sing that song without getting upset and feeling something. I love a lot of Jason Robert Brown musicals, and I think Parade is definitely the best of them all. 

What other dream roles are on your list?
As a kid, there were lots of roles I wanted to play but will never play… like Riff in West Side Story and Javert in Les Mis… unfortunately I stopped growing at 5’ 8”… and so, what are you going to do [laughs]? Now the main role I would love to play at some point is Frankie in Jersey Boys. For a guy my size, that’s the peak. He sings basically every song and is onstage all the time. It’s also an incredible acting part. Leo in Parade is another big dream role, and I would love to do Boq in Wicked. It’s impossible not to listen to Hamilton without going, ‘I want to be in it’, but that’s another of the dream roles you know you’ll never get to do.

Finally, what is it like to have more and more support behind you from theatregoers?
It’s a really lovely experience! As a performer you’re always grateful when people come and see your work. A show like Mormon has its own set of fans, but fans of Mormon came and saw Bar Mitzvah Boy. There were also people who saw Dogfight who then came to see me in Mormon. I’m definitely grateful when people come to see me in the small venues which aren’t as easy to find. If people are willing to give a show a chance - even if they’ve never heard of it before - because they want to see you in it, I think that’s something incredible.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Closer Than Ever at The Pheasantry between 25th and 27th April 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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