BWW Interview: IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU's Nick Spangler on His Broadway Return, 54 Below Debut & More!
The flashing red light indicated that there was a message waiting on the telephone's voice mail. It turned out to be actor Nick Spangler who was asking if he could postpone the time of his scheduled phone interview. He and his wife Monica had a doctor's appointment for their 20 week ultra sound to view the progress of their son's development and they were caught in mid-town Manhattan's downpour. The interview is easily rescheduled and when Spangler is finally able to call he sounds incredibly upbeat despite the soggy weather.
The California native has much to be happy about. In addition to his impending fatherhood, he has a featured role in the musical It Shoulda Been You which had opened only a few nights earlier and several of the major critics took notice of his performance as well as his vocal skills. He's still glowing from opening night.
"It was a blast!" Spangler recalls. "This was my third opening night in a new musical on Broadway and each one has been completely exciting in its own way. With this one, though, I have to say that by the time we got to opening night the show felt as if it were any other day before I got to the theater. I was conscious about the show ans was glad there wasn't any added pressure on me--aside from the fact that my entire family was coming. It was really cool getting to the theater with the feeling that we were just doing the show we'd performed for 31 previews. We got to celebrate the fact that we were done rehearsing and were now happy with what we were presenting."
He continues: "THE BOOK OF MORMON was so other-worldly for me. I was making my Broadway debut but I was just standing in the back of the house and covering several roles. In CINDERELLA I actually created a track and I was really performing during opening night. Even though I had taken another step forward and created a principal role in this present show, I really felt comfortable in knowing that this is what I do now. This is my job."
Actually theater has been Nick Spangler's job for some time now. He was cast as The Mute in the long-running Off Broadway production of THE FANTASTICKS while he was still in college. He ultimately took over the role of Matt and figures he played over 800 performances in that show in a period of 3-4 years.
The opening night after-party for It Shoulda Been You was filled with plenty of red carpet guests and families of people involved with the show. "My grandmother was here from California and she was grinning from ear-to-ear. My parents were here and my wife was looking beautiful and pregnant. All of this made for a very special evening."
As with every new show, there were plenty of changes in it during rehearsals and previews. "I would say that major themes in the show changed from Day One and we had a lot of hands-on input from our two lead producers; Daryl Roth and Scott Landis. I mean that in the best possible way. We were very grateful and happy for it. Although David Hyde Pierce did an incredible job directing the show, we had an amazing team creating and shaping it. Oddly enough from the day we rehearsed and choreographed my number, "Love You Till the Day", I don't think it changed at all. That was awesome because I saw certain numbers in the show get complete new verses or lose a verse of get totally new choreography."
Spangler adds that the ending of the show underwent considerable revision. "I think we had three versions of the show's last 15 minutes," he says. "It wasn't necessarily brand-new material but the order in which everything happened changed. There are two or three little reprises that call back earlier songs and the order in which we performed them changed as well as the final moment of the show. We actually went from a goofy/happy/silly ending to concluding it with the really beautiful, sincere and touching moment we now have. I think we're all happy with the way it ended up."
Shepherding all these revisions was the aforementioned David Hyde Pierce. After many years and Emmy Awards from TV's "Frasier" Pierce has returned to his Broadway roots, winning a Tony Award for his performance in the musical CURTAINS in 2007. With It Shoulda Been You, he makes his directorial debut on Broadway. "Before I started working with David, people would say he was a wonderful human being and that he was generous, kind-spirited, and so funny. I really started rolling my eyes when people would tell me these things because that's all I ever heard. It was like there was no way this guy could live up to all of it," Spangler says. "Now, after working spending 2 1/2 months working on a show with him, I'm joining the masses; he really is an incredible, unique human being. He has nothing but positive energy and good ideas. David's also willing to try out any ideas that you bring to the table as well. I would gladly work with him again in any capacity and on any project." As luck would have it, during the conversation, Spangler stopped to open an e-mail from the director telling him the show had been nominated for 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Tyne Daly also earns encomiums from Spangler, especially for a routine that she seems to have with every show she's doing. "At every preview and every performance so far--at about 10 minutes before curtain--she pops into our dressing rooms and gives us a bit of wisdom or perhaps a story she's heard. At first we thought it was kind of strange, but now we all look forward to these visits. I especially like them because our characters have very little interaction on stage.."
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU had a previous incarnation at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse and many of the present cast members were part of that version. Spangler joined the show for the Broadway production. "I had one connection with the show," he recalls. "I met the composer, Barbara Anselmi, at NYU when I was doing a workshop of a new show," he recalls." Barbara was serving as musical director. We got to know each other and at the end of the run she said, 'Hey, I wrote a musical and in a couple of weeks we're doing a concert at Merkin Hall called BOUND FOR BROADWAY and we're performing a song from my show in it. Would you like to sing that song?' I agreed because I like doing new material and the song was "Who" from It Shoulda Been You. It was a duet and I sang it with a girl I'd performed with many times."
About two weeks later I get my audition for THE BOOK OF MORMON and I e-mailed Barbara and asked if she could cut the song into a solo audition piece for me . She agreed and mailed me the sheet music for it in two different keys and even recorded the accompaniment for me. With that song I booked my Broadway debut in MORMON."
Four years later, while Spangler was back in THE BOOK OF MORMON and performing nightly, he got an e-mail telling him he had an audition for a new musical called It Shoulda Been You. "I contacted Barbara and told her I was excited that her show was finally making it to Broadway. I'm very grateful to Barbara Anselmi for having such a hand in my Broadway career."
"While I was doing CINDERELLA, I was kinda having my second love affair with Rodgers and Hammerstein. I really fell in love with their music when I was in college and I got to do the famous "bench scene" from CAROUSEL. It's about 13 minutes of underscoring and when I heard it played through I could almost hear the scene happening without any dialogue. That was the first time I fell in love with Rodgers and Hammerstein." Performing in CINDERELLA caused Spangler to fall in love with the composing team all over again.
"Working on CINDERELLA," as Spangler tells it, was incredible. Andy Einhorn and David Chase were doing the music and I loved singing the score. At one of the performances when I went on as the Prince, Bruce Pomahac came to see the show and met me backstage, He was incredibly kind and complimentary about my performance. He said that he was excited to see such a passionate baritone at such a young age because it was something he felt was happening less and less these days. I told him that I would like to do an album of Rodgers and Hammerstein music at some point and he said, 'Absolutely. I'd love to hear that!'." [When that recording becomes a reality, perhaps Spangler will consider calling it "The Passionate Baritone"]
Out of the blue, Spangler received a call from the people at 54 Below asking if he might consider doing a night there. They gave him free rein to to anything he wanted. "I jumped right in and told them that this was my chance to do 75 minutes of Rodgers and Hammerstein music--something I feel I was born to sing. I told them to sign me up."
During Spangler's concert at 54 Below, he have his sister Joyah, join him for three or four songs and then have a solo of her own. "I'm really excited to give her the opportunity to shine," says her proud brother. "There's something innate about our sibling voices because they blend really well together."
Spangler will also be bringing two of buddies he worked with about 6 years ago to do some "male" songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon. "That's one of the themes I'm trying to drive home: Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for men who sang like men, rather than certain pop scores now where a guy has to sing above the staff for the entire show. I'm happy to get some 'manly men' guys out there and sing some Broadway songs with them."
Among the music that will be included in the concert are "If I Loved You," "Love Look Away," "Isn't It Kind of Fun?" and Spangler states, "I will absolutely be singing the "Soliloquy" from CAROUSEL. It's especially meaningful today because I saw the 20 week ultrasound of my son just a little while ago--and especially knowing he's a boy. It means that there's be all sorts of new meanings for the lyric of that particular song."
It's obvious that Nick Spangler is becoming one of Broadway's busiest actors. He's also one of the most upbeat and optimistic guys in his chosen profession. Surely his positive energy goes hand-in-hand with his professional success. His talents are well displayed in It Shoulda Been You and will surely shine in his cabaret act at 54 Below. It might not be a bad idea to see both.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos