The upcoming spring 2017 production of Muny Magic at The Sheldon will welcome popular Muny artist, Nicholas Rodriguez back to St. Louis this month. Nicholas most recently starred at The Muny as the Tin Man in the 2016 production of The Wizard of Oz. In his new show, My 70s Show!, Nicholas will fuse all things you love and remember about the 1970s with the music of Broadway, Bossa Nova, folk and, of course, Disco in a unique and intimate evening. This two-night concert presentation will be held March 29th and 30th at 7:30 p.m. at The Sheldon Concert Hall, and is proudly sponsored by Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg. Before his grand return at The Sheldon, we chatted with Nicholas on his day off from rehearsals on what he has planned for his St. Louis show.
How does it feel to make your St. Louis return?
Oh, I just love it there. When they called me, I was kind of shocked. It just came out of the blue, and I was thrilled. I’ve done five shows at The Muny, and in that time I’ve made so many really close friends that it kind of feels like coming home. The first thing I did at The Muny was Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, and then I graduated to the Beast five years later. It’s nice, but the costume is hot.
How do you stay cool performing outside in St. Louis during the summer?
Um, you don’t [laughs]. There’s nothing cool about it. You just accept it, everybody is sweating together, and maybe you loose a couple pounds. The last couple years playing the Beast and playing the Tin Man, I had these ridiculously hot costumes where they’d sew in ice packs in that just melt slowly. It helps for a few seconds. But it’s the adrenaline, you are so in the moment that you don’t realize it while you are doing it. It’s just when you are sitting backstage, soggy.
I came up with this idea as I’m turning 40 this year. It’s actually the week that I’m in St. Louis – I’m calling it my birthday party. And I got nostalgic about all these things growing up as a kid. I didn’t grow up in the 70s. I was born in the late 70s, but it influenced my life – from the record collection to the TV shows to the fashions. It was interesting that as I was putting things together, it’s all of the stuff that tends to come back whether it’s re-runs on TV or music that’s getting sampled. I mean, they’re still making Star Wars movies. And it’s a little bit with politics; you see the parallels between the 70s and now. It’s about what stays the same and what’s changed.
I’m really picking and choosing what it is I like and who I am. So, if audiences like it, it’s the ultimate validation because that means that they like me. Some of it will be familiar. I’ll sing the same songs but it will be sung in a different way. It’s me putting my spin on it from how I recall it. And I hope that people can come to the show and see some of themselves in it. Whether you grew up in the 70s or have heard and know the songs, I guarantee you’re going to hear it and it’s going to be personal no matter what generation you grew up in.
Tell us about your first album, The First Time.
It covers all of my life’s first times: first kiss, first Broadway show, first heartache, first time having sex. It’s all in there; it’s all in the music. A few of the songs from the album will be in My 70s Show! It will be easy to figure out because they fit in with the 70s. It’s everything from John Denver to Joni Mitchell to “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan. I’m an out gay male: I sing songs that are personal to me, and I don’t worry about pronouns.
You’ve definitely done it all: live theatre, movies, music, TV and Web. What’s you favorite medium of choice?
Honestly, what I’m about to do at The Sheldon for The Muny. Because it take all of the tools: singing, acting, writing, creativity. It’s the most vulnerable and the most personal. Now, if I could do that while I’m on a TV series so I could pay for mortgage, that would be better. But this is definitely the most soul satisfying.
What’s a Broadway must-see for 2017?
Come From Away. It has so much heart. And I’m really excited about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
What’s your dream Broadway role?
One that someone writes for me. I’m just waiting for that day to happen.
What are some of your favorite things to do while here?
The Muny is such a fast a furious process. We stay at the Chase Park Plaza, and their pool is what I live for. But I’ve never been to St. Louis without at least two trips to Pappy’s. I have some really good friends that take me out – I love good food and good beer. There’s so many great small breweries in St. Louis. And obviously, Forest Park. I’m a big runner, so just getting out to run and ride my bike.
And if someone were to throw you a “surprise” 40th birthday party while you are in St. Louis, what are some must haves?
Strippers! Oh no, this is a family-friendly show. My mom would always make me a red velvet cake, and that’s a pretty good thing to have. Also, if Kim Massie could sing at my birthday party, that would be a pretty good thing to have, too. Good people, good drinks – Titos and soda preferably.
Done and done, Nicholas. We’ll see you in St. Louis. For more information on My 70s Show! and to get your tickets, click here. V
by Kevin Schmidt