Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Spotlight On...Nick Santa Maria

Name: Nick Santa Maria

Hometown: Massapequa, Long Island, via Flatbush.

Education: Barely got through high school.  I didn't like school very much...except as an audience for my humor.  I learn best when I'm doing the teaching.

Favorite Credits: Pseudolus in Forum, Max in The Producers, Franz in The Producers, Roger in The Producers, Vince Fontaine in Grease!, Max Prince in Laughter On The 23rd Floor, Richard III in The Lion In Winter.

Why theater?: To be honest, I tried stand up (didn't like the lifestyle), comedy improv (couldn't live on it), and TV and film (not consistent enough).  Then one day I got a call from my old improv teacher and friend, Brian Bradley, who was playing Vince Fontaine in Tommy Tune's production of Grease! at the Eugene O'Neill.  He wanted to know if I would mind if he recommended me to take over the role in the national tour.  Since the character hosted a 45 minute, mostly ad lib pre-show I was eager to take the job.  That led to the Broadway production, and ever since then I've been a stage animal.  I find amusing that I landed my first Broadway show without an audition.  It was all about Brian's recommendation.  My theater friends want to strangle me, and I don't blame them.

Tell us about Real Men: It's a thoughtful and wild musical comedy showcasing the highs. lows, and in-betweens of being a guy in our world.  We explore things like dating, having kids, getting old, being fat, confronting the influence of our fathers, getting along with our women, and more.  There are also some very touching moments to counteract the zaniness.  By the way, women have loved this show as much, if not more than the men.  We've had an incredible response all the way around.

What inspired you to write Real Men?: Pauly and me have worked together (on and off) for almost 25 years.  We worked mostly on children's television utilizing our puppetry skills (although I am not in Pauly's class in the puppetry department.  He is a virtuoso.  I play by ear).  In between set ups on the kid shows we would perform more adult oriented humor using the puppets.  We always discussed writing a show together using all of our strengths (Comedy, puppetry. composing tunes, writing lyrics, singing).  This is the result of that collaboration.  That was our inspiration.  Oh, and money.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: My family had absolutely no interest in theater.  So, I am more of a film than theater buff.  I'm not a big fan of a lot of the musicals on Broadway today.  I can't hum the melodies.  Too loud. Too crazy.  Too atonal.  I'm a freak. I watch Turner Classic Movies almost exclusively, and I could actually write the facts you hear during the introductions to the films.  I'm a walking encyclopedia of film and vintage show biz.  The comedians are my favorites, though and were my teachers: Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, etc.  I could go on and on.  I have a very nice publisher waiting for me to finalize a book I've written (with two collaborators).  It's called COMEDY CRAZY...60 Essays About Classic Comedians.  Someday...

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Sophia Loren. Second choice Sophia Loren.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Real Men, a musical for guys and the women who put up with them.  Also a delightful one act called, Kill A Better Mousetrap, by Scott K. Ratner.  It's quite wonderful.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I see George Clooney playing me (hey, it's MY casting office!), and the film would be called, “NICHOLAS, YOU ARE RIDICULOUS” (something I grew up hearing as a child).  Second choice of actor:  Sophia Loren.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Anything with one of the classic clowns of Broadway's golden age.  Musical shows used to be loosely structured for great comedians to run wild in and around. Strike Up The Band (Clark and McCullough), Animal Crackers (The Marx Brothers), Rain Or Shine (Joe Cook), Poppy (W.C. Fields), any of George White's Scandals, or Ziegfeld's Follies and the slew of comedians they hired through the years.  I had the privilege of playing the great Willie Howard's role in a very non-PC original version of Gershwin's, Girl Crazy.  It was an amazing and wonderful experience.  It's built for Howard and his ad libs and impersonations.  I had a ball.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Driving cross country.  I like to do it whenever I can.  I go alone, too.  Complete peace and freedom with a wonderful view.  I meet people in places I probably would never had known about, and I listen to great music, and old radio shows.  Great stuff.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I'd want to sing with a great jazz band.  Old New Orleans jazz. Scat singing, blues, Dixieland, swing...it's where my heart is.

What’s up next?: I'm about to take a shower.  But other than that, we are about to do Real Men at NYMF, and we have hopes of an Off-Broadway run and beyond.   I have an offer to do Forum (my 4th Pseudolus) in January/February.  I also record A LOT of audio books for RadioArchives.com every month.

For more on Real Men, visit realmensingshowtunes.com or nymf.org