For some people, running around a stage pretending to be a cat would seem pretty strange.
And so it did to Brandon Nase — until he was tapped for the role of Old Deuteronomy in the hit musical “Cats,” and began to realize what the story was all about.
“I had never seen the show before, never done it, and knew nothing about it. All I knew was the song ‘Memory,’ and that was about it,” Nase says. “But having gotten my graduate degree in vocal performance/musical theater from NYU, I think I developed a sort of elitist attitude and was sure I could never see myself prancing around a stage like a cat.”
But was he ever wrong! “When I got called to audition for the show it only made sense I would get the part after having turned my nose up at it. And it turns out the show does have a legitimate story, a definite meaning and depth to it,” claims Nase, now starring in the Tony Award-winning musical coming to the Forrest Theatre June 18-30.
“Cats” is a sung-through musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as the “Jellicle choice.”
Nase’s character, Old Deuteronomy, is the wise and beloved elderly leader of the Jellicles, who tries to make the tribe accept the once glamorous Grizabella, who has lost her sparkle, into the fold.
“Today I am a dad of two, which actually helps me with the role and helps me with being a father,” Nase explains. “Just the way Old Deuteronomy deals with his tribe is the way I hope to deal with my kids. He never scolds anyone and he hopes to show them a better way to do things. When he walks into a room there’s a calming effect about him, and that’s the way he tries to teach them the error of their ways.”
Born and raised in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, Nase’s early life was rather impoverished and anything but calm. With music all around him but little money, he realized early on that he had to do something to earn a decent living. So he attended the renowned University of North Texas College of Music, received his degree in choral music education, and returned to his hometown to teach.
“But it wasn’t easy. I was dealing with a lot of racism. In fact,” he says “one day another teacher called me the N-word. And just to show you how difficult and stressful it was for me there, I had this full head of curly hair that was my pride and joy, until it all began to fall out. That’s how incredibly stressed it was for me there.”
And so Nase decided it was time to quit and turn to doing what he always dreamed of doing.That’s when he went to New York and graduate school. He says, “I knew if I went back to school I could learn techniques that would set me on the road to becoming a really fine actor.”
Obviously, he was right. Today, he’s a versatile performer of repertoire ranging from musical theater to pop, R&B, jazz and opera. He’s been seen in many, many fine productions including “The Black Clown” by Langston Hughes, which will be repeated again this summer at Lincoln Center.
“Doing a show like that, where you are basically yourself, can be difficult. As an actor, it’s sometimes hard not to have something to hide behind — including a large cat dressed in a large shag carpet,” he says. “But I must say I’m enjoying every minute of this performance, and can’t wait to see what’s next on the horizon.”