Take a good look at this multifaceted performer. He is a quadruple threat—dancer, actor, singer, and model. With a degree from Juilliard and improv training at New York City’s The PIT, Nathan Madden knows how to play his body like multiple instruments. He is currently appearing in the revival of Hello, Dolly! with Bette Middler as a member of the ensemble and understudy for Gavin Creel, who plays Cornelius Hackl. Last year on Broadway, Nathan faced the daunting challenge of covering two principals in the Tony Award–winning musical An American in Paris. I met him at the stage door after a recent performance of Hello, Dolly!, and he generously answered my questions.
Brent: Thanks for talking with me, Nathan! Was this the most challenging role you've ever prepared for in terms of memorization?
Nathan: The most challenging parts I had to memorize were for An American In Paris on Broadway. I had a very challenging onstage part and then covered two principals. While rehearsing I had many scenes where the characters spoke to each other. One with a French accent and one from Middle America. It was hard approaching the material and memorizing the lines without combining the two.
Brent: That does sound challenging! Another actor I spoke with, Kendal Hartse, told me that an accent, like a melody, can be a great aid to memorization, as “it gives the text cadence and rhythm.”
Nathan: Yes, it can. I also decided to approach them one at a time and later went on for both roles with success.
Brent: No question that tackling them separately makes it easier. Tell me, when the show you're in is undergoing frequent rewrites, changes, and deletions, how do you scrub the previous version and commit to the new one—knowing it will probably change again?
Nathan: You just have to take it one day at a time. One day it the show will be finalized but each day it's your job to commit to the material and try to be as off book as possible. There are always some funny moments during previews, though.
Brent: I’ll bet! But the cast is there for each other to get things back on track. Speaking of that, what have you done when your mind has gone blank on stage?
Nathan: I haven't actually had that moment! Thank God. I have done a lot of improv, and I think that helps a lot with going up. You have to have the ability to paraphrase or reference the script to further the scene in any way you can until you’re back on track.
Brent: Right, and if you know your character well, you’re speaking in his voice, so the audience is unlikely to catch on. Do you have a favorite moment on stage?
Nathan: My favorite moment on stage ever is when the music cut out while performing in Tel Aviv, and I Improved an entire new solo for a few minutes! I had the time of my life!
Brent: Now that sounds like exuberant improvisation! Thanks so much, Nathan. I really appreciate your sharing your time and experience.
Nathan: A pleasure to meet you. Thanks for coming to Hello, Dolly!
See Nathan in action on his website.