Every once in a while, you come across a performer whose vocal talents and physical presence take your breath away, changing the way you experience the stage. January 9-11, Key West will be treated to just such a performer, as Nick Cearley takes the Red Barn stage in the concert version of a new hit New York musical, “…And Then I Wrote A Song About It”, written by part-time Key West playwright Eric Weinberger, with music by Dan Acquisto and lyrics by Sammy Buck.
The centerpiece of this musical tour through the ‘70s and ‘80s is Cearley, whose expressive voice and body explode from the stage. Here’s a quick interview from the actor portraying the central character of Randall Klausner, the enchanting actor-singer-songwriter-dancer-secretary who is searching for love and fame.
Aside from your awesome voice, you’ve got great stage energy. How did you begin your career in theatre?
That is so nice of you! Thank you! Music is in my blood. I was born into a musical family outside of Cincinnati. My dad plays for endless hours on the piano in the house and I don’t remember a time growing up when there wasn’t music playing…I would say I officially caught the acting bug when I was cast as The Wicked Witch of the West in the third grade school production of The Wizard of Oz. Doesn’t it always all start with The Wizard of Oz? My family was shocked when I came home and told them which role I was cast!
…But I really found my niche with musical theatre specifically when I was cast in a production of Into The Woods at age 11…playing the cow’s butt. I had to spend the entire production slumped over as a cow’s butt, I fell in love with musical theatre around that time. I then followed that “legendary” performance playing the cow’s butt AGAIN in a production of Gypsy. I went to college at the Boston Conservatory and then moved to NYC right after graduating.
What initially snagged you onto “…And Then I Wrote a Song About It”?
I love how personal the show is. Some people choose to write their memoirs via book, movie, diaries, etc. This is a memoir musical. I have always been a huge advocate of innovation. So when something THIS original comes along, there is no question as to whether to do it or not. The answer is hands down, YES. I auditioned for Eric Weinberger two years ago when his musical Wanda’s World was having its off-Broadway run in NYC. I didn’t get the part in Wanda’s World, but I did get a call from Eric saying he had something else in mind for me that he had been working on and thought I would be perfect for.
So we met, and he gave me a rough script of what he was thinking. At that time, the play was essentially written like a diary from Eric’s life roughly between 1979 and 1982 and had no music. It wasn’t even titled “…And Then I Wrote a Song About It.” Then, as it got further developed, it started lending itself toward a full-blown musical, which is what we have today. The time period is also such an attraction to me—New York City has always been a mystery because everyone always perceived it as such a gritty, raw, borderline-dangerous spot at that time.
Hearing comments like that from those who lived through it is bewildering…especially seeing what they have done with the Times Square area and Hell’s Kitchen. It’s such a specific era that will never be repeated and I would love to take my personal time machine back and truly experience it. I love how “real” and “raw” it was perceived.
One of the songs from the production is “It Makes Me Sing,” with the infectious chorus lyric, “…now THERE’S a song” that says anything can be made into music. Is that one of the things you find the most attractive about this show?
It’s such a rare breed of musical theatre. I am most happy when I am creating and doing my own thing and discovering through creating. This musical is such a discovery, not only for Randall Klausner, but for this rare genre of theatre. It is hard to even think of one-person musicals. I have seen many one-man or one-woman shows that are usually cabaret shows or revues.
But never have I ever seen an original honest-to-god musical, head to toe, with only one person. Most productions that call themselves “one-man-shows”, still feature back-up vocalists or supporting characters. But this musical literally has one small actor doing a very BIG original musical.
Tell us about your character of Randall Klausner.
Everyone has an “inner Randall.” Randall is a professional optimist. He will take lemons and make lemonade, lemon cake, lemon bars, lemon Jell-O, lemon martinis and still be able to garnish it with leftover lemons. It works for him and it works against him. He is very real to me, and I find myself going through my everyday life living so many of his “Randallisms.” He fuels me off stage as much as on stage.
What personal experiences do you use to feed his character?
Randall and I are both dabblers. What I mean by that is we aren’t afraid to go against the grain and make up our own rules when society and family might say otherwise. We aren’t scared to try things that might be foreign to us…especially for art’s sake. All he wants is to be a quadruple threat—a singer, dancer, actor, songwriter…I also consider myself to be those things. I think his journey is so universal—especially when pertaining to his definition of success.
I think success has a different meaning for everyone. What success means to Randall’s father is not the same as what it means to Randall. He has so many personal successes. I think the piece (and Randall) really lays out the question: What is success? Randall learns through trial and error what true success is and how/why it matters.
Please describe Igor Goldin’s contributions to the piece as director.
What I love about working with Igor is that his senses are so bright and wise. He is definitely a dream for an actor to work with because he truly comes to the table with a real understanding of relationships. Relationships, to me, are what theatre is all about. If you don’t have a relationship to care about, then what’s the point of watching live theatre? And Igor is just a dream.
He brings such a swift, smart and slick sense of humor to everything. And his eye is so aware and sensitive. He is absolutely in-tune with the actor and it has just been a thrill. I have learned more from him about myself as an actor than any other experience I have had and I will be forever grateful to him for that. It is truly a love fest.