Broadway's Paul Alexander Nolan On Making His Feinstein's/54 Below Debut This May and The Power of Music in Life
Broadway's Paul Alexander Nolan (Escape to Margaritaville, Bright Star, Jesus Christ Superstar, Once) will make his Feinstein's/54 Below debut this May and take audiences on a musical journey -- featuring the iconic influences and some personal favorites, who have made an impact along the way. Incorporating tunes from multiple genres, including pop, rock, folk, bluegrass, and more, Nolan will explore the sounds that have inspired him on stage and in life, while sharing stories.
BroadwayWorld had the chance to catch up with Nolan before his debut about his personal musical influences; what audiences can expect from his performances; and the story behind why he learned to play the guitar!
Congratulations! How does it feel to be making your Feinstein's/54 Below debut?
It's very exciting! This is the first concert that I'm putting together, and it's been a great learning experience. It's been fun to choose the material and songs, and there's the added element of the thrill of a live event where anything can happen!
I'm looking forward to having Carmen [Cusack] and other special guests join me. I will always take any opportunity to share the stage with Carmen.
Awesome! Can you share some of the musical influences who have inspired you?
Even before I was in Once, I was a big fan of Glen Hansard and was greatly inspired by his work and creativity. The list is endless, but others include Queen, Jeff Buckley - if I could sing anyone, it would be Freddie Mercury. I really learned to sing by listening to others and studying their musicianship. When I was a kid, I remember listening to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack over and over and learning how to sing those songs.
With this concert, I didn't want to cover just one genre, and wanted to delve into different types of influences in the worlds of rock, pop, folk, bluegrass, and more, as well as some crowd favorites! I tend to gravitate toward music that is accessible and fun for audiences to experience.
Most recently, you had the opportunity to work with Jimmy Buffett in Escape to Margaritaville. What surprised you about Jimmy's music?
I really became a fan of Jimmy's music through doing the show. He writes such great tunes and surprises you through the lens in which he filters his music - you can pick up on the longing, self-reflection, and learn how he handles some of the tougher emotions, like sadness or hurt, through songs, like "He Went to Paris." A lot of the lyrics are really poetic.
Right on! Is there a story behind why you learned to play guitar and how long you've been playing?
I actually first learned to play the guitar for my sister's wedding - she got married on a farm in Canada in front of about 40 guests. I was hiking in Spain at the time I received the e-mail, and thought, "I don't play piano, but maybe I can learn something on the guitar." I learned that summer - it was during my time playing Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar while in Stratford, and I taught myself on my days off.
When I saw Once in 2008, I was really influenced by Glen Hansard and wanted to play more guitar. It's definitely not an easy instrument to learn and takes a lot of practice and dedication. I feel like it's fun to incorporate into something like a cabaret.
What can audiences look forward to for your upcoming debut?
There will be a lot of music over the course of the night and some entertaining storytelling. The name I first thought of when choosing the theme was "Hero's Road Trip." I wanted to create a compelling character arc, centered around an individual finding their way in life and stepping outside of a comfort zone -- whether it's in the context of a relationship or through another life-changing event. I also wanted it to feel like a great playlist that you could use for a road trip - a time where lots of people do their best thinking. Music becomes a huge part of that, in figuring out life's mysteries and growing in our own experiences. I'm excited to have audiences come check it out!
Show dates and times: Fri, May 3: 7 p.m.; Sat, May 4: 7 p.m.; and Tues, May 7: 7 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets, click here: https://54below.com/events/paul-alexander-nolan/
Photo: Courtesy of Feinstein's/54 Below