THE LEADING MEN: Pop Star Nick Jonas Returns to Theatre Roots for Broadway's How to Succeed

By Brandon Voss
13 Jan 2012

Rob Ashford and Nick Jonas
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tell me about working with director-choreographer Rob Ashford.
NJ: Rob Ashford is such an amazing guy. He's a really good person with a great heart, and he's a brilliant director with the ability to give you the perfect direction for that particular moment. Each thing that he says is perfect for what my questions are in my head; he comes up with the answers before I can ask them.

You'll perform opposite Beau Bridges and Michael Urie as boss J.B. Biggley and rival Bud Frump, respectively. Has it been easy to build chemistry with them in rehearsals?
NJ: Yeah, absolutely. As an actor, I think that it's really important to get to know Beau Bridges and Michael Urie first before I get to know their characters. Sitting down, having coffee together, and just getting an idea about who they are as people actually helps me understand their characters better. Luckily, we've had the opportunity at rehearsals to do that and get comfortable with one another.

Are you an "Ugly Betty" fan?
NJ: It was actually on TV the other night, so I turned it on and watched Michael Urie being hilarious, which was a good introduction before I met him and started working with him. Basically all of my rehearsals have been with Michael, and I can't wait to see the audience's reaction to how hilarious he is as Bud Frump. Both he and Beau have such a great sense of comedic timing, which is great to be able to work off of.

As a replacement, how do you seamlessly slip into a long-running musical while still making the character your own?
NJ: We talked about that in rehearsals. The situation that I'm in, coming into a show that's running like a well-oiled machine, is much like Finch's journey as he comes into the World Wide Wicket building: The company's working fine, but he jumps in and integrates himself quickly. It's fun to have art imitate life in that sense, and I can use that to help make that storyline clear. I'm also happy to have already had the experience on Broadway of joining a show that's been running for a while and getting comfortable with new people. Even though that was years ago, it sticks with you.

Jonas as Gavroche in Les Miz.

What was your earliest exposure to live theatre?
NJ: My first exposure to live theatre was at the age of 6, when my parents saw Les Miz on Broadway. They came back to our home in New Jersey and were raving about the show, saying how much they enjoyed it. I was always singing around the house, and I loved performing, so my parents said, "Nick, there's a role in this show that you could play, and you could definitely do that if you wanted." I think it was their faith in me that really spoke to me, but the idea of being able to perform every night was so exciting. So I listened to the music and I watched the DVD of the 10th anniversary performance, and I was just amazed. That was my first real introduction to theatre, and Les Miz was the first show I ever auditioned for when I was about 7 years old.

But your first Broadway credit was Little Jake in Annie Get Your Gun.
NJ: I actually got the national tour of Les Miz, but my mom was pregnant at the time with my little brother, so it didn't work out. Then A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden came up very soon after that, and that actually became my first show. Annie Get Your Gun came soon after that.

When you did Annie Get Your Gun at the age of 8, were you old enough to appreciate what it meant to be on Broadway?
NJ: I loved being on stage, but I also realized the responsibility and the importance of what I was doing, because it really is a job. Although I was very young, I understood that I had to do my best. I thank the Broadway stage for shaping who I am as a performer and also who I am as a man today.

After Annie Get Your Gun and before you began focusing on your recording career, you played Chip in Beauty and the Beast in 2002 and Gavroche in the final cast of Les Misérables in 2003.
NJ: That was an incredible time in my life. The more I did these shows and had the experience of going into the city every day, having a job that I loved at a young age, it continued pushing me to want to do more. But after doing Broadway for about three years, I was ready to take the next step, whatever that was. That's how recording music and touring came about: by feeling so satisfied with what I'd done on Broadway.