We sat down with Nathaniel P. Claridad, the human history book of doo-wop. Find out more about him here:
Have you ever performed in a cabaret before? If not, how would you describe FST’s process?
This is my first experience performing in a cabaret! The process of creating Unchained Melodies was a whirlwind. Imagine workshopping and fully mounting a jukebox musical in three weeks – things are constantly changing up until opening night, which is both very exciting and terrifying.
You’ve performed Off-Broadway and internationally. What’s it like to perform in the intimate space of FST’s Court Cabaret?
Any time I perform in an intimate space, I become part of the conversation between actor and audience member, which has the potential to be more personal than on a larger stage.
You’ve said that you see yourself as an actor first and as a singer second. Can you tell us a little more about that?
I look at text (whether contemporary or classical) the way I imagine that my cast mates see music—I automatically know how to play with the words in order to find the best way to convey meaning and my own personal opinion of the words on the page. My fellow cast members have been giving me advice and sharing techniques that come so easily to them (due to their extensive vocal training), and helping me take ownership of the fact that I am in fact a singer. I hope I can return the favor one day…maybe a Shakespeare doo-wop mash-up?
By the end of this run, you will have performed Unchained Melodies over 150 times. How do you keep it fresh and fun for yourself?
By being present in the moment. Simply listening to the audience and feeding off their energy changes the show in subtle ways from night to night.
Do you have a favorite “vocable” that you have to sing in the show?
Anything with a “w.” Shoo-wop, doo-wop…not entirely sure why, but the “w” is fun to hit.
In the show, you are like a music historian, often stepping in providing the “Did You Know” backstory behind the hits. How much did you know about doo-wop and male harmony groups before Unchained Melodies?
I knew a lot of general facts, and more or less where the music came from, but I did not know a lot of the fun specifics that the development team provided me with (The Crests were discovered in the NYC subway! How cool is that?).
What do you love most about Sarasota so far?
Right now, hands down the weather. When we first got here it was humid and hot, but now the weather is absolutely perfect…and a nice break from that New York City winter.
Rumor has it that during one of the photo shoots, you inspired the cast of Unchained Melodies to join you in singing a song from The Little Mermaid. Aside from “Part of Your World,” what are some of your favorite songs to sing when you’re not singing in Unchained Melodies?
Top 40 or musical theatre is a good bet, but right now I’m obsessed with this new musical, Hadestown, which is headed to Broadway this April, so I am very excited to catch it when I’m back in the city!
From the beginning, your cast had a lot of chemistry. What’s it been like to get to know these three other singers, and have to sound like you’ve been singing together for years, after having only rehearsed with them for three weeks?
It’s been a blast. You can’t plan something like chemistry on stage, and so it was really a happy accident.
What is your favorite role that you’ve ever played?
Torn between Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a member of the original cast of Here Lies Love at the Public.
You wear many hats as an artist – actor, singer, director. How have these roles influenced your work and perspective as a whole?
I think it gives me a greater sense of understanding when going through the rehearsal process. My experience as a director has also provided me with a wider set of tools to use to communicate with my fellow actors and the creative staff. I know how and when to ask for help in crafting a performance that is both repeatable and alive in the moment.
What would audiences be surprised to know about you?
I usually don’t find myself performing in such an upbeat show. While I do often play the clown character, it’s often in darker productions and the character is often not a very good person. As a director, I’m drawn to very heavy tragedies – I love the Greeks!
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
When it’s nice out, I like to walk instead of drive to the theatre. And I usually get into costume pretty quickly so I have ample time to sit in stillness before stepping into the fast paced world of doo-wop we’ve created.
Unchained Melodies runs in FST’s Court Cabaret through February 3, 2019 and returns to FST’s Keating Theatre for a special encore engagement from March 7-17, 2019. For tickets, visit floridastudiotheatre.org or call 941-366-9000.