Nick Adams plays the hunk.
Having appeared as Felicia in the original Broadway cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Larry in the much-touted revival of A Chorus Line, he’s expanded his resume to include roles like Fiyero in the first national tour of Wicked, transitioned to television with The Other Two and even waded into web series territory with a role in Go-Go Boy Interrupted.
A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Adams grew up as a self-described “theatre kid” before studying at the Boston Conservatory of Music which helped launch his acting career.
At the moment, Adams plays yet another hunk, the role of Whizzer, in the touring production of Falsettos. The show won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book when it premiered on Broadway back in 1992. Falsettos tells the story of Marvin, a family man who leaves his wife and son for another man in 1979. As Marvin tries to navigate life as a gay man, he also tries to hold his family together–an increasingly difficult process given his volatile relationship with his boyfriend Whizzer and considering that his ex-wife has started dating their relationship therapist. The current tour follows an acclaimed Broadway revival, bringing the show to select cities for a limited engagement. Broadway fixtures Max Von Essen and Eden Espinosa also star.
Queerty managed to see Falsettos during its run in Los Angeles. The show plays there thru May 19 before moving on to Chicago, (May 28-June 9), Washington DC (June 11-23) and Charlotte, NC (June 25-30).
We also caught some time with Adams to talk about his role as Whizzer, his life as an actor, and his hopes for the future.
How well did you know Falsettos before you joined the tour?
I first heard the score when I was in college. I love the music from the show, so I initially fell in love with the music. Every guy in my class was singing songs from it in my voice recital class. Then I found out what the show is about, the subject matter and I thought Whizzer is the role I should play some day. Later, I was on tour with Wicked with Allison Frasier who was the original Trina in Trousers, which is the show that is the groundwork for Falsettos. She said, “Look, I just talked to [writer] James Lapine and they’re reviving Falsettos. You are Whizzer. Do whatever you have to do to make that happen.” So anyway, I didn’t play Whizzer on Broadway.
But I ended up sort of manifested this to the universe. It is a dream role of mine, so it doesn’t feel quite real that I get to do this every night.
So for the tour then, did you have to audition? How’d you get the job?
I did. It’s weird: A few years ago, my friend Spencer Liff who choreographed the show, we sort of came up as dancers at the same time in the city. We’ve known each other forever. Falsettos was about ready to do their Tony performance in 2016. The show had already been closed for a while, and with every show that’s going to perform at the Tony Awards, they do a camera blocking rehearsal beforehand. So Spencer called me and said, “You want to make a couple of hundred bucks today? I need to do this number from Falsettos and I’d love for you to step in for Andrew [Rannells, who played the role in the revival] to play Whizzer just to get this going at Lincoln Center.” I was like sure, why not? I was free that afternoon, I wanted to hang out with him, so I said I’d do it.
So then I’m at Lincoln Center and I do the medley that they’ve created, and I met James Lapine, briefly.
Very briefly. I didn’t even realize it was him until the end. So that happened and I had spoken with my manager and said, “If this show goes on the road, I have to do it.” Cut to last summer, I’m in Boston visiting [my partner] and I get a call from my manager who says “Can you fly to Chicago tomorrow and sing ‘What Would I Do’ at the Broadway in Chicago concert?” Which was in Millennium Park for like 20,000 people.
He said “The casting office just called. James requested you for this. They’re wondering if you can make it happen.” So it was this whirlwind experience, it was really fun. Then James emailed me and thanked me for doing it. He said, “I wish I could work with you on the song before you do it, but I know you’ll be great.” After, he emailed me and said it was beautiful and thanked me for doing it. So I figured I must be on the table [for the role]. And my manager called and said they wanted to have a session with me. I was actually about to fly to Calgary to do a new musical up there. So I called the theatre in Calgary and asked them to rebook my flight so that I could go to the audition. I had to make them work it out. The morning of my flight, I had to go audition for James Lapine and I guess I nailed it. I flew to Canada, and I got a call two weeks later that I got it.
That’s a pretty wild story. And you knew who James Lapine was. He’s a Broadway lion.
He’s a legend. I grew up with Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George. I had an Into the Woods poster on my wall in my room that had his name on it. I remember looking at that as a theatre kid. So to go audition for him was, in itself, a crazy thing. But then to have him say, “That’s the guy…” I get emotional talking about it.
Whizzer is an elusive character in some ways. Vain, volatile. He also has incredible tenderness that comes out at the oddest times. How did you prepare? Is he in love with Marvin?
I think yes, he definitely does. He’s someone a lot of gay men, I think, can relate to in that we rely on our vanity and sex to get what we want sometimes. We can play games and manipulate people. I think there is such a vulnerability to him underneath all that. So my approach to him is to have a reason why he acts the way he does, and have the way he acts be the facade for what’s going on underneath. In “Games I Play,” at the end of Act I, he’s like here I am again. I think he picks men that he knows [their relationship] will have a bad outcome. He knows it won’t last. And he just keeps repeating the same patterns over and over and gets left with the same result: being alone. With Marvin, he finally grows up and allows himself to be vulnerable and to love back, and to let him know that he loves him. This character has so much meat with the trajectory and the arc from where he starts to where he finishes. I’ve never had a role that has such death or is such a goldmine for every emotion in the gamut. I feel so wrung out at the end of the night, but it’s such a satisfying feeling to know you’ve given yourself over completely to it. James has an incredible barometer for truth.
Let the record show that the first spontaneous ovation on opening night was when Eden Espinosa walked out on stage. The second was when your abs came out on stage.
So how do you keep up with the physical and emotional demands of the show?
It’s interesting. James actually asked me to lose some muscle for the show.
Yeah. He was like “Look, you need to look like its 1979. It was a different time, a different aesthetic for men, especially within our community. You look like you’re living in 2019.” And also, without him saying it, [I knew he wanted] people to see me and what I’m doing in the show and not see tight arms in a shirt first. I’m very grateful that he asked me to do it. I think it was important for me.
But beyond that, I to Barry’s. I go to the gym. I’m staying active so I can be up to the challenge of doing this two and a half hour musical where we sing everything and don’t leave the stage. I just shifted my focus on how to stay fit. For me, exercise has always been a way of release and therapeutic. For this show, I need that moment just to reset and recharge and shake off the sadness. Every night, after we leave, I find my body still thinking about all that happened. The cast, we’ve talked about this together, and it’s tricky. You really feel like you go through all of it. After a two-show day, we’re all like oh my God.
So you’ve worked your whole career as a gay man. Being an out gay man has its perils in showbiz, especially in Hollywood, possibly less so on Broadway. Do you ever fear being typecast? Do you worry nobody will cast you as a straight character?
I mean, it is an unfortunate reality that we face in musical theatre as well. I definitely experienced it. A lot of the big shows I’ve done have been relatively gay shows. Priscilla, La Cage, you know. After Priscilla, all I could get seen for was drag queen roles.
My agent was actually submitting me for passable trans roles. I was like, this is not happening. I shouldn’t be going in for these parts. Ultimately, my agency that I was with at the time said, “You chose to be out. This is a hurdle we’ll have to face.” Then I ended up leaving the office. It was a problem. This is who I am. So it has been challenging, but I’m authentically who I am. I’ve been able to be a part of a lot of shows that our community sees a representation of themselves in, which is really powerful. It’s an unfortunate thing, but we’ve made a lot of progress. There are more roles for gay men, and I love playing gay characters. [Falsettos] is such an iconic musical in the gay catalog. And I’ve been fortunate to play straight characters as well. But I feel like I’m already at a disadvantage when I walk into a room when I’m audition against straight actors for a straight role. But I wouldn’t change it. I’m happy I can be who I am.
And you have a partner. Showbiz is a tough biz. Especially for someone who tours, how do you maintain a relationship?
We’ve been together for over eight years. We met doing Prisicilla in New York. He was on tour–we did long distance for a year after that. Every four weeks we’d try to visit one another. One of us would try to fly to see the other one. I think because we’re just so used to the way this works now, we’re almost unphased by it. We try to check in every day. We Facetime. He’s been out here to see me a couple of times since we opened. After we finish [a city] I get to go home for a week before we pick up again. So it gives me pockets to check in with him and our dog and give me some normalcy before I’ve gotta head back out. We’re both actors, this is how our life works. It’s the reality of what we do.
What do you do when the fear your career momentum will slow, or that, as someone who sings and dances, you get injured? What do you do when the fear finds you?
That’s the thing: I can’t tell you what I’ll be doing six months from now. That’s always been my life. It’s very in flux at all times. The only way to really handle that and combat the anxiety of the unknown is to just live in the moment. Right now–I know this sounds cliche–but I am living in gratitude. I’m so genuinely happy to be doing this right now that I feel like I can’t stress about what might go wrong or right after this. If I do, it will overshadow the experience I’m having right now. I was telling my dad a couple of weeks ago: “You know how you look back and you think life was so good then?” I’m able to actually acknowledge that in real time in the moment. I’m just so happy to get to do this, and so grateful. That just allows me to alleviate worry of the unknown. I always land on my feet, so I just have to trust.
Anything else you would add?
I just hope that people, if they can make it to our run here in LA. After that, we head to Chicago and DC, then we close the tour in Charlotte. I hope people will come to check us out and enjoy this beautiful piece of theatre. And watch The Other Two on Comedy Central. I’m in that show.
Falsettos plays thru May 19 in Los Angeles before moving on to Chicago, (May 28-June 9), Washington DC (June 11-23) and Charlotte, NC (June 25-30).