The Universal “Mr. Cool”

Returning to FST after his appearance in the record-breaking Cabaret, Blue Suede Shoes, Nygel D. Robinson lends his smooth voice to the music of Dean Martin in That’s Amoré!. A forever fan of crooners like Sinatra and Bobby Darin, Nygel has learned, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, how to “embody the smooth sophistication of the period.”

We sat down with Nygel to discuss the development process of That’s Amoré!, what he’s learned about “The King of Cool,” and his secret love of musical theater.

That’s Amoré! is now playing in FST’s Court Cabaret through February 2. For tickets and more information, click here.

Creating a Cabaret like That’s Amoré! is a collaborative process. What was that experience like? 

That’s Amoré!, like all Winter Cabarets at FST, are created in house, and each one is different, so there’s not really a set way to go about doing things.

We were given material (i.e. songs and dialogue) that we had to interpret, experiment with, and then try out in front of the artistic staff at different times. Sometimes things worked. Sometimes they didn’t. Which meant things changed a lot. What seems to work one day, might not feel right the next.

Fortunately we – the cast of That’s Amoré! – do well under pressure, so we were able to adapt to changes quickly when they came. The process helped us band together as a cast, because we were always willing to help each other out whenever an edit was made.

That’s Amoré! delves into the personal and professional life of Dean Martin. What did you already know about Dean Martin and what were you surprised to learn?

I knew that Dean was a cool cat and out of The Rat Pack, he was known as the funny drunk of the group. I didn’t know much about the start of his career with Jerry Lewis, nor did I know how many times he was married. That was a surprise to me.

Of course, I knew the song “That’s Amoré,” but I didn’t know “Volare” or “Everybody Loves Somebody,” so those songs were fun to learn about.

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Nygel Robinson, Mike Backes, and Nick Anastasia. Photo by Matthew Holler.

Over the course of the show, you play bass and piano. Which are your favorite instruments to play?

I LOVE the piano. It was the first instrument I learned how to play. However, in this show, the bass is my favorite. I love playing in the background and being the backbone of the rhythm section. The bass holds it all together and I love that pressure.

What is your favorite song to perform in That’s Amoré and why?

It’s got to be “Birth of the Blues.” It makes me feel like I’m at the Sands Hotel in 1962.

I have known the song forever. The first recording I heard of it was by Sinatra, but then I found what I consider to be the pinnacle performance of the song, which is of Sinatra, Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. performing it with Johnny Carson. (Watch it here.)

Why do you like performing for Sarasota audiences?

I love performing for them because they’re there to enjoy, not to judge. Sarasota is this unique bubble where there are so many amazing performing arts venues, so the audiences are exposed to so much theatre and they know what’s good. They appreciate high quality performances and the hard work that we actors and musicians do, which is really validating.

What is your favorite role that you’ve ever played and why?

Curly in Oklahoma! I got to sing some of the best music ever written (Rodgers and Hammerstein are brilliant) and I literally was him. I realized that Curly was just me, but in other situations. We have the same reactions and relationship with ourselves and the world.

It was also a great opportunity to learn how to listen to someone else and respond in the moment.

That’s Amoré! runs in FST’s Court Cabaret through February 2. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.