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BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot

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Nicholas Adler chats with the Tony winner from SOUTH PACIFIC

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot

An enchanted evening it sure was for those lucky enough to get to see the revival of SOUTH PACIFIC at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. Chocked full of A-List Broadway performers included the talents of Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Morrison, Danny Burstein, Liz McCartney, and the golden-voiced baritone making his Broadway debut, Paulo Szot.

Paulo's performance as Emile De Becque went on to win him a Tony Award (presented to him by Liza Minelli), Drama Desk, Outer Critic's Circle, and Theater World Awards. Quite a fete for a debut! Born in Brazil, Paulo has trained musically since the age of five. He actually starting out as a dancer but transitioned to pursuing the study of voice after a knee injury stopped him from dancing.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Paulo Szot backstage at the TONY Awards

Paulo has a magical career going from Broadway's SOUTH PACIFIC in 2008 to the famed series, AMERICAN SONGBOOK in the then Allen Room in 2009 to THE NOSE at the Metropolitan Opera and his solo cabaret show at the Cafe Carlyle in 2010 to several runs of solo shows and duet performances at Feinstein's/54 Below, six runs between 2010 and 2017.

All of this success from a guy who never forgot to stay humble and work hard. You'll see in one of his answers below that he likes to be at 100% when he starts performing and never stops rehearsing, growing, stretching so that he can bring everything possible for the audience. His performances definitely show this dedication and passion. He is at home both on the intimate cabaret stages as he is on the grandiose stage of the Metropolitan Opera with its 3,800 seats.

Paulo has been living the American theatrical dream. I can't wait to see what show will be blessed to have Paulo enchant us all in next!

NA: Who is your mentor and what would you like to say to your mentor?

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Billy Stritch, Paulo, and Liza Minelli

PS: I never had the luck to have one. I've had very good teachers and other key and very important people that appeared in my life to teach me and others gave me wonderful opportunities, but I have never had anyone who would take me under his/her wings and guide me. I had to figure it out by myself, make decisions, and figure out what was it that I wanted. Intuition was always a good friend. But for sure it would have been wonderful to have someone in the business with more experience to help me along the way...

NA: What has this business given you and what has it taken away?

PS: It has given me everything. It was a dream come true, I had the happiest days while working on stage. It taught me humility, discipline, humanity. I was not born with a ready to sing voice, I had and have to work every day in order for it to work.

I don't regret having to make sacrifices for the career, I always loved what I did and I am happy with the happy moments and with the lessons of the failures. I would do all over again.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Paulo and Laura Osnes

NA: What is the hour like before you go on stage?

PS: I consider the hour before essential. I don't like to warm up during the show, I like to start the show already on my 100% and for that happen I need to start working on my dressing room earlier.

Usually, when I arrive I finish warming up, stretch my whole body, drink a liter of coconut water and try to calm down, go thru the passages with high notes, go thru the most difficult text passages, stretch again AND remember to bring something fresh and new to each scene, always trying new intentions and subtexts. (I remember that while I was doing "Higgins" in My Fair Lady in Brazil for six months, I had to go thru the most extensive and difficult text passages every day and sometimes even backstage just before I entered those most complicated scenes.)

NA: If you could experience one performance over again, which one would it be and why?

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Kelli O'Hara, Mitzi Gaynor, and Paulo

PS: SOUTH PACIFIC, no doubt! I did it for two and a half years on Broadway and afterward, I was asked to join the London production at the Barbican. It was even more rewarding to me as an actor to return to the role. I think that revisiting roles we've done in the past is a blessing.

NA: What are you most proud of?

PS: For sure of having the parents and family I had. They gave me the support, the courage, and tolls to pursue what I wanted but at the same time always reminded me of being humble and respectful of all people. If you know the history of my family, from the moment they were taken from their homes during WWII as children and being trafficked to labor camps, and all. But they never try to arouse any anger or bitterness. Instead, they were the most forgiven and loving people I know up to date. I am very proud of having them as my parents, so for their teachings throughout my life.

NA: Who were your favorite singers growing up?

PS: As a child, growing up in Brazil, I listened to my older brothers and sisters LP's: Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Caetano Veloso, the masters of pop Brazilian music. But I listened to all the records my family had at home. Growing up, as a teenager, of course, there was Michael Jackson, Bono, Sting, Whitney Houston, and many others. On the operatic side, Pavarotti's voice was incomparable and Kathleen Battle transported me to Heaven every time I listened to her recordings.

NA: What was your first performance at the Metropolitan Opera like?

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Paulo and the cast of Die Fledermaus at the Metropolitan Opera

PS: Scary and unbelievable. Peter Gelb, the director of the Met come to see SOUTH PACIFIC and offered me the part of Kovaliov on Shostakovich's Opera THE NOSE. It took me a year to learn the complicated part (of course, while doing 8 shows a week of South Pacific at LCT), but I got it! It is a dream for any opera singer to perform on that stage!! Since then, I returned many times to the Met and completed my 7th season with the company in 2019 with Minghela's production of MADAME BUTTERFLY.

NA: You are a TONY Award winner for your performance in SOUTH PACIFIC. Did anything ever happen on stage that the audience has no idea about?

PS: Always, something would happen, for example, one night, I cut my hand very deeply with scissors, two minutes before my second entrance in Act I. I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around my hand, and took my hat to cover it. Neither Neli Forbush nor the audience understood the reason why I was hiding my hand with that hat... the problem was that I forgot that by the end of

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Paulo and Steven Reineke at Carnegie Hall

the scene Neli Forbush needs my hat to sing "Wonderful Guy".

So, Nellie and I had that moment that I was never scripted on the original :)

Neli gently says:-Give me the hat!; Emile answers, gently: -No, I can't, I cut my hand... Neli: -Give me the hat, my whole next choreography is around that hat!!!

Emile uncovers his hand and finally gives the hat. But, at that point, the towel was already stained with blood and the audience goes: owwww, he's bleeding... I left the stage and finished the show somehow. After the show, I went to the hospital and had seven stitches on my left palm.

NA: What do you enjoy about performing in intimate cabaret settings versus the vast opera venues?

PS: The immediate connection. In a cabaret, you are YOU, not a role and it was shocking at first to not have that shield protecting you behind a role. I think that having these experiences for the last 10 years in nightclubs once or twice each year was a fantastic tool to grow as an artist and as a person. Plus, I got to choose the songs I love and WANT to sing! Also, there is this great feeling of creating your own show.

NA: Who is someone you'd love to sing a duet with in the future?

PS: Oh, I feel the luckiest person non the planet to have had the chance to sing with so many

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Paulo Szot
Paulo, Erika Jayne, Amra-Faye Wright in CHICAGO

incredible artists like Anna Netrebko, Deborah Voigt, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O' Hara, Laura Osnes, Victoria Clarke, Marilyn Maze, Rebecca Luker, Liz Callaway, Patricia Racette, Joyce Di Donato, Betsy Wolfe just the name a few.

I could have never imagined in the past that I would have the chance to sing to and share the stage with these stunning ladies!

You know, I feel pretty blessed already :) But I think it would be interesting to find some male singers to sing some duets too one day.

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From This Author Nicholas Adler