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Interview: Drag Superstar Nina West Releases a Musical Short to Be Thankful For!

BroadwayWorld catches up with Nina to chat about her theatre past, Broadway aspirations, and of course, "Quarantine Dream"!

Interview: Drag Superstar Nina West Releases a Musical Short to Be Thankful For!

As the pandemic continues to sweep the world, bringing a second wave of lockdowns, Drag icon Nina West and Walt Disney Studios animator Dan Lund ( Frozen, Frozen 2) have teamed up to ask people to 'Mask up, Stay home, and Watch a Musical" with the release of their new, made-at-home musical short, Quarantine Dream.

This new short fuses Dan's 30 years of Animation expertise with Nina's passion for the performing arts and musicals paired with an original song written by Mark Byers, West, Lund, and Patricia Taylor. Shot entirely from home during the second week of isolation in March 2020, with Nina in Columbus, Ohio using an iPhone, and Dan Lund, directing via Zoom from Burbank, California, Quarantine Dream pulls inspiration from Nina and Dan's shared love for classic Disney movies, like Mary Poppins, that seamlessly combine live action and animation to create a timeless, charming escape.

Quarantine Dream is a 3 ½ minute short that was born out of these trying times of isolation and quarantine. It tells the treasured story that imagination can lead you anywhere, and if you let it, you can still have an adventure no matter the circumstance. Follow Nina and her new bubble friends on an unforgettable musical journey.

You can watch the musical short below and and read on as BroadwayWorld catches up with Nina to chat about the origin of the project, how a love for Disney and Broadway turned into a career in drag, and so much more!

I understand that "Quarantine Dream" has been months in the making. How did it all get started?

My friend Dan Lund is a brilliant Disney special effects artist and he was an executive producer on the animated short that I was asked to do called Coaster. We've maintained contact and keep in touch and we became very good friends and he's become a creative sounding board for me.

So I was in New York City actually, to see a bunch of shows. I had done some work on Monday, March 9th and I was going to go see a bunch of Broadway shows because I was invited to go to the opening of Six that Thursday. It was super exciting! I had a really cute outfit and everything! But of course, Broadway shut down that morning and I was sent home. So I was scrambling to get a flight back home to Columbus, because Trump was grounding flights. So I hurried up and left my friend's apartment in Hell's Kitchen and got to LaGuardia, got on a flight, got home, and the next morning Dan called me and said, "Hey, wanna make a musical?"

So over the next couple days we talked and it just became kind of a quarantine project to keep both of us busy. But then it became a serious love letter to a specific style of Disney movie musicals like Mary Poppins or like Bedknobs and Broomsticks. That's where it went and it became a beautiful thing. And it made me a Disney princess! It might not be Disney-released, but there's something to be said for the treatment that Dan gave it. I really do feel like I'm Mary Poppins dancing with the penguins. It feels magical.

Interview: Drag Superstar Nina West Releases a Musical Short to Be Thankful For! So in the early discussions, were you like, "I don't know what it is, but there has to be bubbles," or did the song come first? What was that process?

Dan knew it was bubbles. He just knew because of everything we were hearing about washing your hands... Don't touch your face! Wash your hands! Don't touch your face! It was the routine of lathering up that was his initial inspiration and it allowed us to go and build a song that would facilitate telling a story. I remember that the first demo of the song was so different. It's a very different story that was more about staying busy and creating during quarantine. It felt kind of depressing. But I think that this one is uplifting and it celebrates the faculty of dreaming. The bubble is a way to get lost.

Then the music came. There were several rounds of writing the music with Mark Byers and Dan and myself. Once we had the final version, we recorded it and Dan watched via Zoom while my friend Mariah helped me figure out how to work the camera. [Laughs] It was about a month into COVID when we were filming it. Mariah was in my bubble and it was just really nice to have something to work on.

It all feels so spot-on, from the song to the animation... it all feels so nostalgic.

There are so many winks to the time period. When it says: "Nina West from Columbus, Ohio and Dan Lund from Burbank, California," those are all hand-drawn by a Disney artists who just retired named Marianne Tucker. And then the character of Nina in the credits are all done by a Disney animator named Leon Joosen, who did Oliver & Company. For a Disney fan like me, it feels overwhelming.

Interview: Drag Superstar Nina West Releases a Musical Short to Be Thankful For!

You've gotten a chance to perform quite a bit of like original music recently, which is
maybe not always a part of every drag queen's experience. What is it like for you getting to sing original songs and tackling new music in general?

I went to school for theater and my dream was to be on Broadway, and then it didn't happen. Then I kind of developed my drag and I resigned myself to being a lip-sync artist. Then Drag Race happened and everything changed. It was like I was starting over again and the world opened up to me in a profoundly different way. I could reimagine my career in the way that I wanted to. So the last two years have been a lot of start/stop, pick up the ball, get a touch-down... I can't believe I'm using sports analogies! [Laughs]

But I couldn't let the opportunity pass without at least revisiting the world that I maybe I didn't give a fair shake to. So I wrote "Go West" right when I got off of Drag Race. Then I released a comedy album, a kids album, a Christmas EP, and I've been releasing singles ever since! It has all allowed me to access talent that I haven't used in a long time. I'm learning. And it's been a tremendously rewarding opportunity to use my own voice and tell stories that I want to tell. It's not any more or less personal, but it does require the use of different skills, and I'm really proud to hone those again.

Where did your love for the theater begin?

I remember going to see Cats at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. My dad took me and my sisters. I was transformed. I don't know if it was the costumes or the music or the largeness of it all... It felt like another world. Those cats lived in that theatre and I believed it. That really opened it up for me.

Then performing in the choir in my church took it to a different level. I remember being a wise man in the Nativity. I was the fiercest wise man ever! [Laughs] It impacted everything I did. It wasn't that I knew that I was queer, but I did know that I was different. Something about it made me feel whole. And made be feel like I was going to be OK... That feeling never ceased. Every time that I need to be reminded of that safety net I would somehow find a show. Then I did community theatre. Then I majored in theatre in college. In college I would work in the costume shop in our theatre department as a part of my work study, and any money I had leftover we would get on a bus and go to New York City to see a show. Whatever we could do to be surrounded by theatre, we did.

All of these small steps through theatre showed me who I was. The first gay people that I met who were out and happy were through community theatre when I did A Christmas Carol. They took care of me. They allowed me to feel comfortable and safe. I'll never forget that.

I still dream of being on Broadway and hopefully one day that will happen. Until then I'm gonna keep making sure that my fingers are in as many pies as they can be. I want to get my skills ready for it and keep in touch with that part of myself.

I would love to see you on Broadway!

I'm just hoping for a revival of Hairspray. Can you imagine? Make it happen, Jerry Mitchell!


But of course we have to get Broadway open again first.

Between this and all of your singles, and Storytime, and so many fundraising events, you haven't stopped since this pandemic started. How are you keeping up?

I'm used to being on the road and going non-stop! I've always been like this though... I've always needed the work in a way. I need to do the work and the work needs me. I live alone, so finding these projects that keep me engaged is really important.

I've been very mindful of my own personal health and of the health of my fans. I want this virus to be gone and for the pandemic to be over. I think the only way to do that is to lead by example. But let me tell you, I have so much FOMO. Doing stuff like this helps to quell that. Yeah, I'm tired, but I'm lucky that I get to be tired. I'm lucky that people want to watch the work... and if they don't, they can turn it off! [Laughs]

Were entering the holiday season- the pandemic is very much in a second swing. I know that your mantra is "Go big. Be kind. Be you." Why do you think that now more than ever it's important for people to heed those words?

We have found ourselves in a truly precarious predicament, where the numbers are higher than they've ever been. For me, I had to learn to be kind to myself in order to be kind to other people. I've realized that I can't just go out and do shows, because that's not being good to myself. People need to take a step back and realize that truly, we are all in this together.

I think that 'going big' is all about living loudly. I think that the social movements, like what happened with Black Lives Matter over the summer, that's going big. You have to be fearless and stand up for what you think is right. In 'being kind', you have to give yourself space, provide yourself grace and forgiveness. And then you can give kindness to others. We have to arm ourselves emotionally and mentally. We have to do that work now.

For more about Nina West, visit:

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