When Broadway star Nick Adams was 15 years old, he saw Kander & Ebb’s “Chicago” on Broadway. Although he fantasized about it, little did Adams know that he would actually make his Broadway debut in a revival of that same show 8 years later. Adams’ history with the legendary composers will continue when he joins the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for “On Broadway with Kander & Ebb,” for a world premiere symphonic production, Oct. 4 and 5 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis.
Under the direction of Principal Pops conductor Jack Everly, “On Broadway with Kander & Ebb,” which opens the ISO’s Printing Partners Pops Series for the 2013-2014 series, also features Broadway luminaries Nikki Renée Daniels, Ted Keegan, Beth Leavel, and Jessica Rush.
The 40 year songwriting partnership of Kander & Ebb will be celebrated in this fully orchestrated production which will include many of the duo’s significant stage musical hits and contemporary classics, including the music from “Cabaret,” “Chicago” and the film “New York, New York.” Also included will be lesser-known pieces from “Funny Lady,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” “The Rink,” and more.
Adams originated and starred as Adam/Felicia in the Bette Midler-produced Broadway musical “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” His Broadway credits also include “A Chorus Line,” "Guys and Dolls,” “La Cage aux Folles" (2010 Tony-winning revival) and “The Pirate Queen.” Concerts include New York Pops 30th anniversary (Carnegie Hall), “Songs for a New World,” Naples Philharmonic, Birdland, Erie Philharmonic, Boston Pops and Cincinnati Pops. Regionally, he has appeared at Paper Mill Playhouse, (Prince Eric, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”), Pittsburgh CLO, Kansas City Starlight, The Muny, and the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma.
The "On Broadway with Kander & Ebb" concert marks Adams’ return to Indianapolis, where he performed previously with the ISO, playing Link Larkin in a Pops concert of “Hairspray” in January.
Examiner.com had an opportunity to sit down recently with Adams at the ISO’s offices to talk about “Hairspray,” “On Broadway with Kander & Ebb,” and his career.
How was Hairspray?
A fantastic show. You know, it’s a great musical but to do a world premier version of it in a concert was so special. I think we had 75 to 80 pieces in the orchestra behind us. You don’t get that that magnitude of sound in a Broadway show. You’re lucky if you have 12 to 14 in the pit. To have them on stage with you — it’s unlike anything I have ever experienced.
How was it working with John Waters?
Amazing. He was interesting yet so normal at the same time. I guess I expected that he was going to be super eccentric and sort of offbeat. He was just kind unassuming but has led a pretty incredible life, so he is just a great story teller.
Did you enjoy being in Indy when you were here last?
I think it’s charming and a really adorable city. I like the downtown area. It’s so well groomed and accessible. I was here in the winter so it was really convenient. We could literally walk through the entire mall to get to here without going outside.
Does the music of Kander & Ebb speak to you?
I love and sort of gravitate to old school musical theater and I have been fortunate that I have been in a few revivals. I feel like I come from that song and dance era. A lot of shows now are more contemporary. The heroes are not song and dance people. They are just generally singers. I love how Kander & Ebb fuses that altogether. I love their style. When you hear it you know it’s them and their genre.
Does the fact that you are a dancer also draw you to their music?
Oh, I think so. In their dance arrangements you can just feel it. And some of the biggest historical Broadway shows were their shows. In college (Boston Conservatory), I had a "Chicago poster" and a "Chorus Line" poster on my wall.
Do you know your fellow cast mates?
Beth I have worked together in “Hairspray,” and we met previous to that in New York. She came to see “Priscilla,” and I met her backstage. Nikki Renée Daniels and I met when I was 16 in Ohio. She was in college in Cincinnati where I had done a summer stock production. And Jessica Rush and I were on Broadway together. We just did “Songs for a New World” in New York in the spring.
How did you come to know Jack Everly and Executive Producer Ty Johnson?
There was an MGM concert I did last spring in Naples with Jack. He and Ty were in New York and my agent called and said that they want to see you for this song and dance man in this MGM concert. So I went to audition for them in the city and while I was there said, ‘Hey, we’re doing “Hairspray,” would you have any interest in playing Link. They also told me Beth Leavel was involved and John Waters was going to be part of it. I said “Yes. When?” So they asked me if I knew Link’s song from the show, “Take Two,” so they gave me the sheet music and I sight read it. I got both jobs so it started this great relationship so I am so grateful that they have opened me up to this world of concert work.
How do you like the concert format?
I love it. Being a singer, having that amount of sound to work with and creating music with that many instruments is such a unique experience. It’s just so exciting. Theater orchestras nowadays are so minimal. A lot of it is synthesized, especially now. Also Jack is really good at mapping things out. He can explain it and teach it in a way that you automatically know it. His arrangements are really smart where one arrangement flows into the next.
Any new projects?
Hunter Foster is directing the “Rocky Horror Show” I am playing Rocky and Jeremy Kushnier is Riff Raff, Lauren Molina, who played Johanna in the most recent revival of "Sweeney Todd," is Janet. We are doing it at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. It’s specifically for Halloween. We run for about 2 weeks but they are interested in seeing what happens with the production because the list of the cast is absurd. I don’t even know how they got all these people. I am also singing with Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft at Birdland in NYC on Oct. 14th and 21st. I met Lorna at a Barbara Streisand tribute concert in Manhattan last year and then I went out to Palm Springs to sing in a concert where I saw her again. We have a mutual friend so we had dinner together with her and her husband. This summer I toured with “A Little Mermaid” and her husband was our associate music director. Lorna came to see the show and said, ‘Hey, I am singing with my sister in NY, would you be one of our guests?’ and I of course I said ‘Sure.’ I didn’t even have to think twice about it. Lorna just made it through breast cancer so this is a celebration for her and it’s a benefit for the Actors Fund and The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. It’s me, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jim Caruso, Liza, Lorna and a handful of other female guests but its only three men that they asked to sing
What’s the future hold for you?
I’ve dabbled in TV and films. I’ve done a couple of films and a handful of TV shows, like soaps. In August, however, I shot my first pilot in NY but it is always a gamble. You don’t know if it’s going to get picked up or not. The experience was incredible. If it does get picked up, it would be life changing because I do have a large recurring role in it. So I have my fingers crossed. It’s called “For Real,” the premise involves a reality star whose show gets cancelled. He’s looking for work and he is thinking he is going to continue to live this celebrity lifestyle but no one wants to hire him. The only offer he gets is to star in a Broadway musical. My character plays an actor who is starring in the musical but they want to replace me with this reality star. So that sort of establishes this of rivalry and conflict between the two of them. But it is more about the ridiculousness of celebrity and pop culture. I had a lot of late nights. We blocked off 43rd Street. We had a lot of outdoor sequences that I was in. I know they have a couple of offers out for it from a couple of networks so I know something is going to come from it. I am also up for another television show that films in the spring which would take me out of the country for 5 months.
What accounts for your success thus far?
I moved to NY in 2005, hoping I would get one Broadway show. I just wanted to be on Broadway and I thought I could say I set out to do what I wanted to do with my life. So that happened my second week in New York which was so not typical. I still can’t believe it but I was as prepared as I could be and I was in the right situation. You know, the opportunity came and I was ready to take it. Eventually I did six Broadway shows but I finally got to the point when I was doing “La Cage,” when I said, ‘I can’t understudy anymore.’ I loved dancing so much and it was so fulfilling for such a long time but I felt I was utilizing only a fraction of what I had to offer in my skill set. “Priscilla” came when I was ready for that to happen in my life. If I would have started and originated a role right out of college, I don’t think I would have been able to handle the pressure or the magnitude of what that is. There is so much that goes into that. You are responsible for the success of a multi-million dollar production and you feel that. It’s one thing being a replacement but originating something and knowing that all these people are depending on you to make something successful. It’s a lot to deal with so I think it came at the right time for me and so once I did that I got to originate a role and star in a new show and that was the ideal. Each time I did something I said ‘I am going to set my sights on something new.’ TV and film is a little more lucrative, financially, but I just kind of want to explore new genre.
How do you keep yourself grounded?
I have an incredible family who has been supportive of me the entire process of the journey to get here.
Do you have a partner?
I do. His name is Kyle. We met during “Priscilla” so we have been together for 3 years now. He’s on the road with “Wicked.” He’s been away for a year. It’s tough doing long distance but we travel to see each other every 3 to 4 weeks. That’s why I am going to Minneapolis from here to spend a week with him after the show. We moved into a Brownstone in Harlem last August. He did “Chorus Line” at Paper Mill and as soon as I closed he got “Wicked” and left so we only spend a month together so I just said to myself ‘what can I do to keep myself occupied with.’
What can I tell my readers about what they can expect from
"On Broadway with Kander & Ebb?"
I think what they are going to see is the best of what Kander & Ebb have accomplished with some absolutely fabulous talent and they are going to get everything they like ---singing, dancing, emoting and Beth Leavel.
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