The Nose: A Zany New Family Musical Coming to Brooklyn This Week
Anthony J. Piccione
OnStage New York Columnist
Last year, at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, the new family musical entitled The Nose received its first full production. From its early development stages to its official world premiere, the show has received a great deal of critical praise. In 2015, it was awarded the second prize in the Jackie White Memorial National Children’s Playwriting Contest and was a finalist for the Helen-Jean Play Contest, while the New York Times listed the MITF production of the show as a Spare Times pick in August of last year.
Now, the show is returning for an encore performance at Brooklyn’s Master Theater on February 23rd at 7pm, after a successful run this past year. This past week, I had the chance to speak with some of the people involved in the show, to find out more about what promises to be an exciting production.
Based on the 1836 Russian short story by Nikolai Gogol, The Nose chronicles an unfortunate happening in the life of a Russian bureaucrat named Kovalyov, as his own nose comes to life and leaves his face. As a result, Kovalyov must go find his nose, and stop him as he attempts to achieve a more powerful position than Kovalyov himself. The musical version contains a Russian flavored score to go along with what sounds like a hilariously absurdist story, as Kovalyov attempts to save his face.
The musical was adapted for the stage by Kit Goldstein Grant, whose work has also been previously presented at the Strawberry One-Act Festival, the Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café, and Emerging Artists Theatre’s New Work Series. When I had the chance to speak to her, she explained to me how she first became inspired to create this show. “I'm a Russian literature fan, and I've loved Gogol ever since I was a kid and my family went to see the play,” she explains. “My siblings and I liked it so much that my mom bought us each our own copy of the script.” Goldstein Grant went on to talk about how over time, the idea of the story being a family musical made more sense to her, rather than the idea of a play version. “It didn't make sense to me as a two act show, plus an opera version already existed, so it didn't fall into place until it occurred to me how perfect a short story about a man's nose running away would be for a one-act family musical!”
Over the past two years, the show has gone from developmental readings at Theatre Resources Unlimited, The Playground Experiment and the National Opera Center, before eventually making its world premiere during the summer at MITF in 2016, and ultimately, receiving this upcoming performing in February 2017.
This most recent production is being directed by Chase Gosselin, who previously worked as the Producing Artistic Director of Act Three Theatricals in Vermont, before eventually moving into commercial theatre in NYC, and ultimately getting involved with this production after talking with producer H. Dan Irwin, whom he met through the Commercial Theatre Institute’s producing program. When I had the chance to talk to Mr. Gosselin, he spoke passionately about the show and the production he was directing. “Every single scene in the show has its own unique surprises and chaos that erupts, so it’s constantly fresh,” says Gosselin. “It’s Kit’s comedic genius at its best, and it became all the more fun when we discovered a physical gag for the scene that simply put it over the edge. We all keel over in laughter every time we run it in rehearsals, and I can’t wait to get it in front of an audience.”
Aside from the basic premise of the story, if there is one thing that made me interested in this show as I conducted these interviews, it was the many zany characters – and the actors portraying them – that were being described to me. “It's also really satisfying to be at rehearsals, watching actors fully inhabiting a character you dreamed up,” says Ms. Goldstein Grant, while going on to discuss some moments with her personal favorite character. “The doctor is obsessed with one thoroughly unscientific cure for everything, and is just so inexplicably strange that he's a lot of fun, and the zany and unexpected way he's played by Adrian Rifat doesn't hurt either!”
Mr. Gosselin added similar comments. “The most exciting element of these rehearsals has been the instinctual comic timing and creativity of our incredible cast,” he said. “There have been days where I have completely thrown out my own plans based off brilliant spur-of-the-moment ideas that the cast has in the room. This cast truly gets the world of the show, which allows us to just play in rehearsal… and ultimately the best, usually meaning the funniest, idea wins.”
Taking on the lead role of Kovalyov is Dakota Dutcher, who described how his character ended up in the situation he currently is in. “[He] has done a lot to raise his own social status”, he stated. “But in trying to gain this perceived high level of dignity, he has become a bit disconnected with his own humanity and ironically enough, loses the qualities which make a person dignified.” He also spoke about how portraying his character has helped him both as an actor, and as a person. “I've learned new ways to ground myself in my own life, and have more respect for where I came from while still being comfortable in my own skin,” he said, while also stating of the show itself “it has humor and life lessons that can be enjoyed and understood by all ages.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Statler, who portrays the roles Olga and Ivan, spoke about the rehearsal process, and how audiences will love the production. “Everyone cares about the project a lot & is always ready to jump in and try out new things”, she says of the rehearsal process, while also adding that “anyone who loves to laugh will get a kick out of the outrageous things that happen throughout the show.”
Christopher Michaels, who portrays the Police Chief and Boris, went into great detail on some of his favorite moments in the show, including a moment involving Boris and the Doctor. “He and I have worked together on numerous different productions together and always end up playing the funny-men,” he explains. “So we are given this scene to basically just play and we constantly try to one-up each other to get the laugh. Sometimes we take it too far and Chase has to reel us back in, but some really great bits and character choices have come out of this scene!” He added that “this cast and production team is so incredible. I know people always say that, but honestly, I am excited to step into the studio with these people day after day to explore and play and create.”
As I interviewed each of these people, it was clear to me that each of them were very enthusiastic about this show, and it’s even possible that this upcoming performance could be far from the last. “Dan and Chase and I have approached this production with the concept of remounting it in the future in a smaller Manhattan theater,” according to Goldstein Grant. “There are also irons in the fire for a production overseas next summer, so that may be happening!”
In the meantime, however, those in the NYC area have this one performance in Brooklyn to look forward, and are urged to follow them at “The Nose: A New Family Musical” on Facebook, for further updates on the show’s progress. As someone who has yet to see this show, I personally became more intrigued after these interviews, and I look forward to sharing my own take with the readers on On Stage soon after the performance this week.
The Nose: A New Family Musical will be presented at the Master Theater in Brooklyn on February 23rd at 7pm. For more information, please visit www.thenosemusical.com.
This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet, critic and essayist based in New York City.
To learn more about Mr. Piccione and his work, please visit www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage) and on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione).