The March 23 performance of Some Like It Hot at Broadway's Shubert Theatre featured a special new cast member: The production's director and choreographer, Casey Nicholaw, stepped in last minute so that the show could go on. He will reportedly continue in the role for this weekend's performances, though that news hasn't been fully confirmed as of yet (keep an eye on Some Like It Hot's Instagram for the latest).
Nicholaw, a former Broadway performer who hasn't trod the boards since appearing in the original company of Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002, filled in for Mark Lotito as Chicago gangster Spats Colombo. The performance took Nicholaw back to the stage where he made his Broadway debut in 1992's Crazy for You, which also played the Shubert.
We caught up with Nicholaw the morning after his triumphant stage return.
How did this come to happen? It seems like it was last minute.
Casey Nicholaw: It was very last minute. We ended up having four covers out, and three of the five principal males were out. We were just trying to figure out how to cover the show. I didn’t want a cut show. We were talking about solutions, about my associate Steve [Bebout] going on for Adam Heller, and then I said, ‘Well, you know, I could do Spats,’ because that’s the one I knew that I could probably do. And, of course, everyone jumped on it. And then I was sorry. And then it was harrowing. And then I had fun. The people showed me love, it was all so good. It was a lot yesterday. It really was.
How much time was there between when that decision was made and you going onstage?
We made the decision the night before, late. I basically learned the lines the next morning and sort of had a put-in [rehearsal] in the afternoon. That part was especially wild. Steve was teaching me the blocking and the logistics of things and where I need to stand and how I need to be out of the way. He was cracking me up because he would say, ‘You know, Casey likes it when you do this,’ or ‘when you grab that on that word.’
Were you off book for the performance?
All except for one scene where I had my lines written on a newspaper. And it was pretty clear I was reading—I can tell you that much! I thought that the big chase number in act two was going to be the hardest thing for me, but it ended up being the easiest because I remembered that I choreographed it, and I remembered what it was. It was the lines that I had trouble remembering, because I hear them but I never really looked at or memorized what the words are before.
What surprised you the most being onstage in this show that you obviously know inside and out?
Just how hard everyone works. Like, we know they work hard, but to be in the middle of it—I was so out of breath at the end of the chase scene. In the middle of it, I was like, ‘Jesus, this is so much running.’ You see it from the house, but there’s just as much traffic backstage and everyone running around each other. You never really ever stop. Just because you go on stage doesn’t mean you’re stopping running. You’re running from one side to the next. And it’s pretty awesome!
Did everything go smoothly, or were there mistakes that the audience may or may not have been able to notice?
Some people noticed and some people did not notice, but I had a couple of complete brain farts. Other than that, it was OK. But I will be on again, so I’ll do better tonight.
What was it like acting again after not doing that for so long?
It was so weird, even just hearing my voice. I haven’t said a line on stage in 20 years, not since I did Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was really weird being like that, and going back to my acting base for a second. It’s funny because Joby Horrigan, who’s the wardrobe supervisor, dressed me on Crazy for You at the Shubert Theatre, way back when, like 30 years ago. Some of those moments were pretty cool.
Had you ever toyed with returning to acting in the last 20 years?
Never. I never wanted to return. And I sort of regretted it when I said I would do it, and then it ended up being a cool experience. I don’t need to do it again. But I’m glad I was able to do it last night and be there for the cast and have a different type of experience with them. When I’m directing, I have so much to say all the time. Yesterday, I had nothing to say to anyone. They were so supportive, and to just be with them and look around on stage and see all their faces from a completely different point of view was surreal. They’re just such a lovely, fun group, and everyone worked so hard. We had a great time together, and I felt so much support from them.
And did you have any notes for yourself after?
All I had was notes for myself. I was like, ‘Be better!’
But after this weekend, that’s it for Casey Nicholaw's acting career?
I hope so!