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ARTIST INTERVIEW: “KINKY BOOTS’ ” NICK RASHAD BURROUGHS

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Have you ever met someone who, within the first thirty seconds of being introduced, makes you feel like you’re in the presence of a star? Though it’s been three years since I first experienced such a moment, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

I had been invited to spend the summer in Charlotte, North Carolina working as a company member with Central Piedmont Summer Theatre. It was my first professional job as an actor, my first summer doing summer stock, and I was beyond stoked to begin.

At our first summer potluck, I met Nick Rashad Burroughs. With his hypnotic eyes, confident stride, and eager smile, I noticed him right away. Immediately, I could feel an enormous energy radiating from him that made him appear both fearless and genuinely kind. There was only one word that came to mind at that point, a word that also reappeared the first time I heard him sing: Broadway.

As fate would have it, two months after graduating from the University of Alabama, Nick announced that he would be making his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, understudying Tony Award-winner Billy Porter in the starring role of Lola.

Nick was gracious enough to take time out of his busy pre-Broadway rehearsal schedule to talk to Stagelight about this incredible news.

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Josh Conrad: You’re 21 years old, you graduated from college just over two months ago, and you will be making your Broadway debut as Tony Award-winner Billy Porter’s understudy in the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots. How on earth do you feel right now?

Nick Rashad Burroughs: I feel like I’m walking in a dream! It feels unreal. I can’t believe it. It hasn’t hit me yet because it’s something I’ve been dreaming of my whole life and then all of a sudden it’s here. So I guess I’m having a hard time believing that it has actually happened.

JC: Did social media explode?

NRB: Yes! I made my post saying that I would be making my Broadway debut and got, like, 800 likes.

JC: How many days did you have to get to New York?

NRB: I was in the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and had like four days to figure out how to get home, pack up my things, find a sublet, and fly to New York.

JC: Tell me about the audition process you went through: was it rough?

NRB: It was crazy. In the middle of my senior year of college, my school had a senior showcase going on during Spring Break. We all came up to New York to do the showcase, which we performed in front of a bunch of agents. That night we were given agent callbacks and the next day I went to an appointment with one of them. They wanted to sign me immediately. And I did! The first thing they sent me on was the Kinky Boots national tour. I sent the Kinky Boots team a video audition from Alabama and then a week and a half later, I got an e-mail from my agent saying that I had to come up to New York again to do a callback for the tour. I ended up doing seven callbacks. I was flying back and forth from Alabama to New York for a month and a couple of weeks. First, they called me in for just an Angel. Then, after that, they called me back for Lola. They kept calling me back for Lola and each time another person would see me; first the associate director and choreographer, then Harvey Fierstein, then the producers, and finally the entire team.

JC: But you weren’t ultimately cast in the tour?

NRB: No. On my last plane ride there, I saw the cast list for the tour and thought it had already been cast. I called my agent and learned that they were still casting certain roles, which is what I thought my final audition was for.

JC: And then they dropped a bombshell on you.

NRB: My agent called me and told me that I booked Lola’s understudy on Broadway and that I would be an Angel every night.

JC: I’m guessing you were surprised!

NRB. Oh yeah, I was extremely surprised because I was only going in for the tour and then I found out I was cast on Broadway!

JC: And then when you got here, did you jump right into rehearsals?

NRB: I had a day to settle in and then I started rehearsals. I’m still preparing for Lola first, and then I’ll go on to learn the Angel track. I’ve done all of my blocking (we finished in a week) and now we’re working on choreography. I’ve seen the show about ten times now. My opening is August 12, 2014!

JC: What are you most excited for with this new experience?

NRB: I am most excited for the feeling that I’m going to get in the finale number of Kinky Boots called “Raise You Up” on opening night.

JC: How is watching Kinky Boots as an audience member preparing you for your roles?

NRB: Every time, I cry. It’s the most inspirational thing to watch knowing that that’s going to be me up there in a matter of weeks.

JC: How did your training at the collegiate level prepare you for your Broadway debut?

NRB: They taught me how to be well prepared for auditions and callbacks; I always felt ready to go any time I had to audition because of my training.

JC: What do you think is your biggest challenge in preparing to understudy such a major role?

NRB: To let go of my whole idea that this is a dream so I can get out of my head and do what I need to do as a performer. It’s actually happening and I have a job to do!

JC: Very sensible. Who are some of your current Broadway idols?

NRB: Patina Miller and Billy Porter, hands down.

JC: And your favorite show that you’ve seen recently on Broadway?

NRB: Pippin. It changed my entire life. I was bawling and smiling the entire show. Patina Miller set me on fire; she was amazing.

JC: Any final words for our readers?

NRB: Don’t think realizing your dreams is unrealistic, because a boy from Alabama graduated from school and came up here to live his dream and it can happen to you too!

See Nick Rashad Burroughs make his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfield Theater on August 12, 2014 and follow his journey on Twitter and Instagram! @nickrburroughs

Josh Conrad is an actor, author, and artist currently living in NYC. His debut YA novel, CyberWorld: The Legend of Alaxeria, is available as an e-book on Amazon and BN.com. www.jconartist.com

1 Comment

  1. Kimberly Chatman

    December 15, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    We love you, Nick

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