We chatted with Broadway’s brightest star, Paul Nolan, who is currently playing Jimmy Ray Dobbs in the new musical Bright Star. We discussed his favorite moments in the show, what it was like to be in Daddy Long Legs, and more.
As a kid from a small town in Canada, what was your first exposure to Broadway and theater?
I heard about it because I saw a tour of Les Miserables come through the city near where I grew up, and knew I wanted to act when I saw it. Then I began devouring Broadway soundtracks!
Can you recall any standout moments from when you first started performing? Any embarrassing mishaps you would rather forget?
Not really, but I remember feeling like I belonged in that community.
What’s it like working on a 2-person show and then going back into a big Broadway production?
The work is the same, mostly. But having a large cast is like being home for Christmas. So much energy and life backstage. I like that part, even though I spend a lot of time holed up in my room. I come from a big family and I like when there are people around.
Favorite thing about Carmen Cusack [your co-star in Bright Star]?
Her playfulness and artistry and rebelliousness. That’s three, but it’s unfair to ask a Libra to choose just one.
What is it like to have the band onstage during the show? Do you think it adds more energy to the performances when you have the music so close to the action?
Yup, it does, and we love it. I don’t like being separate from an orchestra ever. They are a big part of the heartbeat that energizes the show.
Best or most surprising reaction you’ve gotten from the audience?
They go mad for the show like we’re doing a rock concert. That is surprising, since it’s a gentle tale that tugs gradually at the heartstrings and leaves everyone with a smile on their face. The audience here is very generous.
Favorite moment in Bright Star that you’re not in?
Wait…there are moments I am not in?
Favorite song from Bright Star that you get to perform?
Again, I can’t choose. I like all my stuff.
Daddy Long Legs is one of my favorite cast albums, and I’m looking forward to the Bright Star release. Do you ever listen to yourself sing on cast albums or in videos?
Sometimes, but often it only makes me critical in ways that are not useful. But sometimes it can be really enjoyable. The Bright Star album, for instance, is just the best produced Broadway album I have heard, and I really love listening to all of it.
What are the most played songs on your iPhone/mp3 player and what is your go-to Karaoke song?
Most played: Fleet Foxes. Go to Karaoke: Somebody to Love (Queen) or Baton Rouge (Garth Brooks).
What do you like to do in your downtime backstage?
Best day off activity?
Hiking and hugging my wife
Do you still collect socks? What’s the strangest sock anyone has ever given you?
Yes…Strangest are likely the Star Trek’s Spock socks, complete with his ears attached.
Use one word to describe each of the following:
Carmen Cusack – Rare
Megan McGinnis – Composed
Steve Martin – Generous
Edie Brickell – Genuine
Bright Star – True
Once – Perfect
Daddy Long Legs – Clever
Dr. Zhivago – Massive
New York City – Honest
Favorite book or movie that should be adapted into a musical?
Not telling, because I want to get the rights and do it!
Most challenging role you’ve played so far?
They all challenge me. I think I like that about them. If they don’t, I am bored. Most tiring was Jesus.
Three things you could never live without?
Creativity. Joy. Goals.
Favorite show venue played in thus far?
Cort Theatre. I love the history there, and it’s beautiful, and backstage we are all near each other. Also, the Festival Theatre in Stratford. It’s a thrust stage with 180 degrees of audience around you. So liberating.
Hidden quirky talent?
Kermit the Frog’s voice.
Why should people see Bright Star?
It has laughter and joy, love and murder, and the best cast in New York City.