BWW Interview: Nathan Peck of North Carolina Theatre's KINKY BOOTS
From February 11th-16th, North Carolina Theatre will be presenting a production of Harvey Fierstein & Cyndi Lauper's 2013 Tony-winning musical, Kinky Boots, at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Nathan Peck, who will be directing and choreographing the production.
Nathan has performed on Broadway (where he even appeared as an original cast member of Kinky Boots) and regionally across the United States as well as internationally in Slovenia, Italy, and Malaysia. In addition to performing, Nathan has choreographed and consulted for a variety of projects on Broadway and off showcasing an eclectic style and interest in storytelling through movement and dance.
To start things off, how did you first get involved with the original production of Kinky Boots?
NP: There was a stage reading in New York City that was being held. A workshop or a staged reading happens a lot of times before shows go to production just to sort of work some things out, scripts or all that kind of a thing. I was asked by the director, Jerry Mitchell, to be a part of that. I have work history with Jerry. I was previously in the 2005 revival of La Cage aux Folles on Broadway, which he choreographed. So he asked me to be a part of the workshop, and I said yes. That was about a two-week process, and then at the end, our lead producers, Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig, sort of conveyed to the people that were part of the workshop that this is going to happen, we're planning on bringing this to Broadway, which was very exciting. So after that, we had our rehearsals for our out-of-town tryout, which was in Chicago later that year. Then about three months later, we started rehearsal here in New York for the Broadway production, and we opened in April of 2013.
How long were you in the Broadway production?
NP: I was in it for the entire run. So we ran almost day to day for six years. The whole time I was in the company, I was the dance captain and a swing in the production. I did have some other sort of side jobs here and there, but being a dance captain of a Broadway show takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus and a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. You're there a lot, there's many different facets of job. I did have some little jobs on the side while I was in Kinky Boots, but it definitely was my main focus.
Since Kinky Boots ended its Broadway run almost a year ago, you ended up working on a couple regional productions. This will be your second as director and choreographer as well as third overall. As someone who was in the original cast, what is it like for you getting to be at the helm of the show?
NP: It's really wonderful. It definitely for me personally gives me a sort of sense of autonomy over the production, which is a nice opportunity to have. It's also such a great chance for me to continue the legacy of the show and its message. I'm so close to it and just absolutely love it so close to my heart that it's very nice to be able to continue that legacy and also to continue Jerry Mitchell's vision of the show. So it's amazing to continue Jerry's legacy in regards to the show.
Would you mind telling us about the cast you've assembled for this upcoming production at North Carolina Theatre?
NP: Yeah, there's some amazing people involved. Some people that I've worked with before and few that I had over that are new to the show, which is really exciting. Joseph Anthony Byrd is playing Lola and he performed on the first national tour as well as on Broadway. So I got to work with him closely in the Broadway company. I'm excited to have him playing Lola and Graham Scott Fleming who is playing Charlie played the role in Toronto. He also played Charlie in the Muny production of Kinky Boots as well as for me most recently at Ogunquit Playhouse. So I'm excited to have him back again. They're both amazing actors, singers, and wonderful people. So I'm really thrilled to have them leading our company down at North Carolina Theatre.
Going back to the beginning, how did you first get started in the theatre?
NP: I started dancing when I was four. I always kind of knew that I would pursue dance as a career. It's just something that was sort of in my blood. It's something I've always wanted to do since obviously since I was a little kid. I also like in middle school and high school, and I did a little bit of theater at school and I also dabbled in forensics and things like that. So after high school, I went to college and studied dance at a school called Oklahoma City University, which has a really amazing dance programs. So I went there, studied dance, got my degree, and at the end of my college years, I just sort of made up my mind that I wanted to come to New York and pursue theater because I figured theater was something I'd love to do very much. Not to mention that opportunities were there were better for a dancer. So that's why I moved to New York, and thankfully, I've had a lot of amazing opportunities here and do a lot of different, interesting things that were not always successful, but some really wonderful work and met some really amazing people.
After having worked as a performer for a while, how did you make the move to working behind the scenes as a director/choreographer?
NP: It just kind of came naturally once Kinky Boots closed on Broadway. Like I said, I had been the dance captain in the Broadway company, and part of my job in doing that was to maintain the show, make sure everybody's doing the right choreography, hitting the right marks, teaching the show to new cast members, making sure that the day to day goes smoothly in conjunction with the production stage manager and obviously with Jerry and his two associates. So it was kind of a natural progression to move from being a dance captain to being a director and choreographer. I've always had an interest in storytelling, obviously dance, but specifically the storytelling aspects of dance and movement and singing and how that plays into how a character is developed within a play or a musical. I worked on a few plays with a good friend of mine, Annaleigh Ashford, as a movement and dance consultants in a couple of plays that she worked on. Those opportunities really sort of opened me up to how, not dance per se, but movement and staging and all of that can be enhanced or how a character can be enhanced through those aspects. So it's definitely not something I needed necessarily a conscious decision to do, but it was just a natural progression that I thought, "Okay, this feels good. This feels like the direction that personally I want to move into." It's been really wonderful.
Before we go, do you have any other upcoming projects you'd like to share with us?
NP: During last fall and also this upcoming spring semesters, I've been teaching some classes at Pace University here in Manhattan, which has been really wonderful. I've been teaching jazz and theater dance to music theater majors. That's really awesome, so I have that support when I come back. I also have a bunch of interesting, cool stuff coming out.
How excited are you to be coming down to Raleigh to start rehearsals?
NP: I'm very excited. It's going to be a really quick rehearsal process, which will be fun, but I'm really excited. Eric Woodall, the Artistic Director at North Carolina Theatre, is such a wonderful guy. We knew each other from when he lived up here in New York City and worked for Tara Rubin Casting, which does a lot of casting here in the city. So I'm really excited to bring the show down there to him. He's a wonderful guy and has been really kind and supportive of me, so I'm really excited to get down there and hit the ground running.
In conclusion, for those who would like to have a career in the theatre, where do you think would be a good place to start?
NP: I think if you want to have a career, you're definitely have to study and really understand which aspect of the theater you want to work in, whether that's being a dancer, being a singer, being an actor, or getting stagecraft and building sets or lighting designer, any of those things you really have to mine any opportunity for education and information that she can find. There's so many different wonderful schools and programs that are happening in the country right now and you really have to go after those and be really determined and vigilant about understanding how you fit into the theater world and what aspect works best for you. Then after that, you really just have to work hard and be persistent and try to maintain your positive energy and attitude and you really just have to go for it. It's really difficult to maintain a career in show business if you don't have a really extreme determination and will to want to do it. So you're going to have to throw all of your heart and soul and energy into it because it can be a ton of stuff, but you really just have to be persistent.
Nathan, I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview. It was great getting to talk to you.
NP: Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it, Jeffrey!
Be sure to catch North Carolina Theatre's production of Kinky Boots. It will be playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium from February 11th-16th. For more information, please visit: