Kate Nash fans know the pop star, actress and songwriter can do just about anything she wants. His first album, made of bricks, struck a chord with its upbeat melodies and heavy lyrics. Then she played the lovely Britannica in GLOW on Netflix, garnering even more fans outside of those who may not be familiar with his music.
Now it all comes together in the Off-Broadway musical, only goldwhich is currently previewing at MCC ahead of an opening night on November 6. It all started over a decade ago when director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler contacted the pop star, asking if they could work together on a story idea about a dance. -musical set centered on Paris, following a fictional royal family on vacation.
It was around the time of Nash’s second album, My best friend is you, came out of. It featured songs like “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt” and “Paris”, which heavily influenced the choreographer’s notion of what only gold could be. “There are certainly recurring melodies from this album on the show,” says Nash. “Even though ‘Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt’ isn’t there, we really wanted to keep the feeling of that song in the show. It’s like that rant and it’s emotional and it leads to something , but it’s not what you think. There’s orchestration and there’s a real sense of dynamism to it.
In addition to Nash and Blankenbuehler’s creative partnership, the musical’s original songs have also come a long way. “I couldn’t even have imagined how some of these songs would sound… We focused on trying to keep the spirit of my voice and elevate it into a musical world.” Some of them started out as iPhone recordings, with Nash using Garage Band or tinkering on the keyboard while singing melodies.
As the show matured, the songs developed a new context with the various arrangements, courtesy of Tom Kitt, both vocally and instrumentally. Sure, there’s Nash’s signature pop edge with a touch of musical theatre, but there’s another element that some might find surprising. “I have a punk side to me,” she says. “And the musical is definitely not punk, but we wanted to keep the spirit. There’s electric guitar and there’s a lot of bass in some songs.
This “we” is an important part of the story of only gold. Teamwork is the best part of being in musical theater, says Nash. “I find [it] so satisfying to work with arrangers and music directors to figure out ‘what’s the best thing to do with some of these songs?’ Then, hearing other people sing them too, I really find [fulfilling].”
That’s an impressive cast of 26 on the Off-Broadway show. Early on, Nash realized how important the bond between dancers and musicians is. It is a parallel with the interpretation of lyrics, whether through a person’s body or an instrument. “We get to see each other’s work in this specific, unique way…I’m so inspired by that.” Nash even worked with one of the managers ahead of time, putting So you think you can dance winner and West Side Story alum Gaby Diaz, who plays Tooba in only goldin his music video for “Waste Man”.
“It was so fun to meet so many different people in this field and to feel so welcome, and honestly, really at home,” says Nash. “I never thought that I would be [involved] in musicals, but it was one of those things where I realized, ‘Oh, I feel very comfortable and… my music weirdly makes so much sense here.’ And having dancers performing my songs is just the coolest thing ever. They are incredible artists with experience and style.
Nash herself is also in the musical. She plays the Narrator, a role she didn’t even realize she had until the contract arrived. With auditions while the star was on tour a few years ago, Nash assumed the role would go to someone else, but now she thinks Blankenbuehler has decided the show’s unique style dictated that the author -composer had to guide the audience through his work on stage.
“It was a big learning curve and I’m really glad I did GLOW before doing that because I feel like learning to wrestle taught me that I can learn to do things that I don’t think I can do,” she says.
Now, for the first time in a long time, Nash isn’t sure what’s next artistically. “I’m sitting on an album right now and I need to figure out how to get it out. Right now, I’m just really interested in where this musical theater journey will take me – and I feel really open-minded.
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