BWW Interview: Nick Blaemire On Touring, Living Life & Bonding With FALSETTOS' Audiences
The 2019 National tour of Lincoln Center Theater's production of FALSETTOS has already begun in San Francisco, with its next stop the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (beginning April 16, 2019). I was afforded the most opportune chance to chat with Nick Blaemire in between shows at the SHN Golden Gate in San Francisco. A produced Broadway writer at the early age of 23, Nick now portrays shrink/husband/step-dad/friend Mendel, the connecting link between FALSETTOS's myriad of characters created from the fertile meetings of the artistic minds of William Finn and James Lapine.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Nick!
Thanks for having me!
So how are the SHN Golden Gate Theatre audiences in San Francisco responding to FALSETTOS?
They've been wonderful. Our whole company has been looking forward to this California leg of the tour - for the sunshine and wine, sure - but also for the California audiences. The S.F. crowds have been so smart, so discerning, so with us every moment, in a show that can be a lot on a first viewing (or even a thirtieth). And they don't give away laughter easily. They're raising the bar of our work onstage. It's prepping us well for L.A.!
Any specific audience reaction take you by surprise?
The stage door of this show is unlike any other I've experienced. All over the country, people have been saying things to us like: "Thank you for bringing this show to our town!" and "I needed that story!" - which transcends the question of whether it was good or bad. It gets to something far deeper - that this show is necessary, and helpful to the people who come. That feels rare, and bonds us with the audience in a profound way. Because we're all feeling the same way about performing it every night. FALSETTOS is magic.
What words of wisdom have James Lapine and/or William Finn impart on you or the company?
"Fight the tears. Fight the cheap laugh." Both are invaluable - because this is a very emotional, very funny show. Just because we could cry in a certain spot, or get a laugh in a certain spot; doesn't mean that it's the truest, most honest version of the show that we can do. We're part of a team up there, and a forty-year legacy for this show. It's not about us. It's about the show. And knowing that releases me from worrying about how I'm doing every night. Just telling the story is enough, the show itself does the rest.
Any particular city you'll be touring to that you're most anxious to perform in?
The idea of playing the Ahmanson blows my mind, because I've seen so many shows there, and it's so exalted as a spot where great theater happens. But personally, I'm most excited to get to the Kennedy Center in D.C., which is my hometown. I've performed in their smaller spaces (Millennium Stage, The Terrace), but never in the Eisenhower. And I grew up seeing shows there. I saw a production of MIDSUMMER in the Eisenhower when I was in fifth grade that I've clearly not forgotten. I saw all the Sondheim celebration shows in that space back in the early aughts, and those changed my life. So I look forward to that full-circle moment of being up there, with my parents in the audience. I just might spontaneously combust.
I loved that play of James'. It was a magical experience getting to work with him then, and to work with him now. He's a true genius, an immaculate radar for truth, and a great teacher. As for the rest of the cast, I'd been a fan of their work, and we have mutual friends - but no, this is my first time getting to share a stage with any of them! And it's an honor.
What's your favorite song in FALSETTOS that you wish Mendel would sing?
I love "I'm Breaking Down." Lemme have a crack at it, Eden!
And your favorite that you do sing?
I love the "Please Come To Our House/Marriage Proposal/Tight Knit Family (Reprise)" trifecta. They happen all in a row, and I always forget it's coming - it's just like "Oh, I get to keep singing now? And it's this song? Sweet." That fifteen minutes goes very fast very night.
What touring tips did you pick up from your national stint in ALTAR BOYZ that you use in this FALSETTOS tour?
Explore the towns. I love taking solo trips around areas that have been recommended, putting my headphones on, and getting lost in the world, a little speck just bopping around. It's very freeing - and edifying, as to how it feels to live full-time in the places we're visiting. Traveling has taught me so much, and I'm so grateful to both of these tours for paying me to do it.
So, just how does a 23-year-old get a musical he wrote (GLORY DAYS) produced on Broadway?
Ambition, luck, and a touch of insanity. I started writing GLORY DAYS with my high school buddy James Gardiner when we were 18, with no hope of it making out of my living room. But that pure love for the process became infectious, and I got addicted to making it the best version of itself that I could. That led me to directing the show at my alma mater, the University of Michigan; to sending the show to Eric Schaeffer at the Signature Theatre and driving down to D.C. from Ann Arbor to do numerous (very humbling) readings in his house; to a production at Signature when another show dropped out; to raising money for the Broadway production in my New York apartment while in previews for CRYBABY as an actor; to getting a Broadway production at Circle in the Square when NEXT TO NORMAL dropped out to go to Arena for more work after 2nd Stage. The rest is history - but the getting there, and the results from its short-lived life - they taught me the artist I wanted to be. I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world. And highly recommend making your own work.
After this FALSETTOS tour, will you then go right into something your production company Thinkfactory has been cooking?
Thinkfactory is actually not my production company. It's a production company I developed a TV idea with - which is something I do a lot of, with various places. That particular series didn't go forward, but I did actually just sell two movies to two other production companies I'm really excited about, so I'll be writing those this summer - and I'm also writing a few new musicals, including one called SPACE DOGS, that I'm working on with the great Van Hughes and Tina Landau. So my plate, and my heart, is full.
What goes through your head now when take your curtain calls after playing Mendel?
The curtain call in this show takes place after one of the saddest moments I can think of happening on a stage. We're all wrecked, and exhausted - cast and audience alike. So, standing there together, bowing and applauding, feels a bit like a group hug. I'm not great with accepting compliments, but in that moment, I accept.
Thank you again, Nick! I look forward to laughing and crying my eyes out again at FALSETTOS.
Thank YOU! Can't wait to see you there.
For ticket availability and show schedule at the Ahmanson through May 19, 2019; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org
For other tour stops and dates; log onto www.falsettosbroadway.com