We sat down with Nick Anastasia, one of the cast members from FST’s Cabaret Unchained Melodies. Get to know him a little bit more by reading the interview below:
Before you were cast in Unchained Melodies, what did you know about male harmony groups? What have you learned since that you find interesting?
Luckily for me, I grew up on, and was obsessed with, the smooth sound of groups like NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, and Boyz II Men. So the whole “male harmony group” thing has always been woven into my performance fabric, so to speak. I’ve always been attracted to that tight sound of straight-toned harmonies, and a lot of my career has revolved around harmony and a cappella groups, I was part of an a cappella show called Voca People that I performed Off-Broadway and toured with for a combination of 3 or 4 years. Unchained Melodies was a great project to keep that passion for harmonies going, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it as soon as I heard FST was producing it.
What parts of yourself do you integrate into your performance in Unchained Melodies?
Oh the “Nick Anastasia” you see on stage is definitely about 90% true to life, minus a few details scattered throughout the dialogue. With a show like this, I think it only benefits us as a cast to bring out as much of our true personalities onstage as possible. It only makes that audience-performer connection stronger.
You’re from New Jersey. Did you grow up listening to musicians who hailed from your state, like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons or Bruce Springsteen? How did these musicians inspire you?
In a word, ABSOLUTELY ! My parents have fantastic tastes in music, and my dad is a professional drummer who did a few gigs alongside Bruce back in the days before he hit the big time. Those “Jersey Strong” artists – like Bruce, Frankie Valli, Bon Jovi, etc. – were and still are a huge part of my musical influences. New Jersey natives have a huge sense of pride for the artists that are born and bred in the Garden State!
In the show, there’s a joke about bathrooms and subway tunnels having great acoustics. What are some places, besides onstage, where you love to sing?
Well, I can with 100% sincerely agree with the fact that bathrooms are a great place to sing! I’ve always been big on singing in the shower ever since I was a kid – it’s got great acoustics!
Why do you think that doo-wop and the other songs in Unchained Melodies have stood the test of time?
Aside from the iconic use of harmony, there’s a lyrical magic to these songs that not only speaks worlds to the people that lived through the time period, but also those that just long for a simpler time. I obviously wasn’t alive when songs like “Blue Moon” and “In the Still Of the Night” were released, yet they still somehow give me a sense of what life was like in the 1950s.
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?
I’ve definitely been a fan of finding more moments in between the singing for “playing” onstage. I’m a big jokester in real life, and the style of these cabaret shows, particularly Unchained Melodies really allows you to be able to play as an actor, both with the audience and your fellow actors.
I also love any night that the audience gives us more verbal responses to things. I’m never one to pass up an opportunity for some improvised banter!
Do you have a favorite vocable that you have to sing in the show?
Ya-DaDaDaDaDa DaDaDaDaDaDa, as heard in “Sh-Boom”
What is your favorite role that you’ve ever played?
A couple of months before arriving for Unchained Melodies, I was playing Claude in the European tour of Hair, which was absolutely a dream role of a lifetime and my proudest accomplishment yet. I also played Bat Boy (Edgar) in Bat Boy:The Musical twice many years ago and that’s always been a favorite of mine!
Besides performing in Unchained Melodies, you also volunteer at the Humane Society here in Sarasota. What inspired you to do this and what has that experience been like?
The HSSC here in Sarasota is truly unlike any other place of its kind that I’ve ever been to. The staff and facilities are just amazing, and the turnover rate they have for animals is incredible. I’m a massive animal lover – particularly dogs – and it fills my heart every time I’m able to get in a few hours at the shelter.
You’ve been in two previous productions at FST—Burt and Me and Laughing Matters: Lock the Gates. What is it about FST and Sarasota that inspire you to keep coming back?
I fell in love with FST and Sarasota pretty instantaneously upon my arrival for Laughing Matters a few years ago. Obviously, the rehearsal spaces and the theaters themselves are fantastic. Plus living near one of the nicest beaches in the world is never an issue with me! But it was honestly the combination of the passionate staff and creative teams, as well as the impressive quality of the work I’ve both been in and seen in my time here. I’ve always felt very welcome and included, not only on a personal level, but during the rehearsal process as well. I’m extremely grateful to continue to be invited back to FST to do what i love most.
You’ve been part of a couple national and international tours. What is life like on the road?
Touring life can be exhausting, hectic, and even brutal at times, depending upon your schedule and locations, but I’ve always had a great time. I’ve been very lucky to have toured with shows I’ve loved in places that I may not have otherwise gotten to see. I’ve trained in Paris, lived in Moscow, opened for Sting and Macy Gray, hosted Monster Jam to thousands of fans in some of the country’s most famous arenas, and performed triple encores to hundreds of screaming Germans – all thanks to touring.
This is your second time performing in FST’s Court Cabaret. How does the space influence your performance?
I really love working in the Court Cabaret. It’s so intimate but also has the balcony, which gives you a little space to work with if you want moments to distance yourself. But even in those moments, you’re still 100% vulnerable on that stage at all times. I think that allows for some really great work to shine through. For this show in particular, it’s been wonderful being up close to our audiences and seeing their reactions when some of these songs come on. It’s really something special to witness.