Actor Brandon Michael Nase gives new life to ‘Old Deuteronomy’ in ‘Cats’
“Cats” opened at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston on Jan. 7 and runs through Jan. 19. The show features new sound design and direction, as well as new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler of “Hamilton” and “In The Heights” fame.
Brandon Michael Nase, who’s currently starring in the show’s North American tour as the wise feline Old Deuteronomy, says that in the world of musical theater, there’s an adage that actors often use: “When there’s nothing left to sing, you have to sing.”
Nase, who was a public-school teacher for two years before pursuing his passion for performing, earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Choral Music Education from the University of North Texas College of Music and his Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance/Musical theatre from NYU.
Prior to joining the “Cats” national touring production, Nase was part of “The Black Clown,” which opened the 2018-2019 season of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That show was adapted from Langston Hughes’ 1931 poem about the black experience in America. The musical fused jazz, ragtime, African American spirituals and opera to bring Hughes’ words to life onstage.
Nase, in a recent phone interview with the Banner, describes the audition and call-back experience for “The Black Clown.” He was one of 25 black actors in the room. Reading the poem and singing “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” in the group setting, he says, was unlike any experience he had ever had. “I remember when I booked it, I was ecstatic,” he recalls.
“Cats” was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber from T.S. Eliot’s 1939 “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” The musical premiered at the New London Theatre on London’s West End in 1981, and a year later opened on Broadway, where it ran for 18 years and almost 7,500 performances. “Cats” has been translated into 15 languages and seen by more than 73 million people worldwide in more than 30 countries.
The premise of the renowned musical is that once a year, a group of cats gather together for the “Jellicle Ball,” where the leader of the group, Old Deuteronomy, selects one cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a new life.
Nase is often drawn to projects by their entirety rather than by a specific role, he says. For him, it’s about whether the musical is able to “transport someone out of their current place and time” — and he’s found that with “Cats.” As the production has traveled across the United States, audiences have expressed their delight in seeing the show again as adults and bringing their own children or grandchildren to relive the history and magic of the musical.
In playing Old Deuteronomy, Nase’s goal was not to recreate the role, but to approach it with a fresh perspective and bring whatever he could of himself into the character, including his experience as a father of two children. Through rehearsals, he slowly peeled back the layers of Old Deuteronomy, he explains, to see him as a father figure and “a loving warm presence.”
The Amarillo, Texas native also was able to draw from his experiences growing up with his grandmother, who had many cats. “It wasn’t hard for me to dig back into my memory, when we would be crawling around the floor like cats, and remembering the older cats that my grandmama had, the way that they were, and the way that they weren’t,” recalls the actor. “It was definitely an explorative moment for me in that I was able to bring human characteristics that I wanted to for this character, but then you also have to bring in those catlike characteristics.”
If you go
Purchase tickets at: www.BroadwayInBoston.com, via Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or in person at Citizens Bank Opera House Box Office, 539 Washington Street, Boston.