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Broadway’s Nicholas Rodriguez Returns to Headline Holiday Pops

By Zandra Wolfgram


Straight from the Broadway stage — he is in the cast of Company starring past Sinfonia Gulf Coast gala guest star Patti LuPone — dashing, upbeat and easy-going singer/actor Nicholas Rodriquez will add sizzle to the sounds of the season when he takes the stage Friday, December 10 as the headline artist in Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s Holiday Pops concert.


Heralded by the Washington Post as “the classic leading man,” Rodriguez is an award-winning star of the stage (performing lead roles in Tarzan, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and Carousel and others), TV screen (One Life To Live (Nick Chavez), Madam Secretary) and film (Sex and the City 2). His debut album, The First Time, based on his one-man show of the same name fuses Rodriguez's love of theater with the music of jazz, blues, folk and pop.


Backed by the sensational Sinfonia Gulf Coast orchestra, Rodriguez will transport audiences to Christmastime of yesteryear and serenade us with his stellar hand-selected song list including his favorite classic holiday carols like Silent Night, O Holy Night, classic “ratpack”-esque ballads a la Dean Martin, Broadway tunes (Rodgers & Hammerstein fans can rejoice) and a selection of hand-picked lyrical songs that make his heart zing.


We caught up with the star in New York by telephone in between rehearsals:


ZW: You are both an actor and a singer, which is the primary creative role for you?

NR: I was always passionate about acting, but I knew I wanted to study voice. My degree is in classical music [he holds both a master’s in vocal performance from the University of Texas at Austin], but I love storytelling through song. My foundation is singing, but if I can't communicate the story of the lyrics, then it's not something that I'm really interested in.


ZW: Do you have a dream role that you'd love to play?

NR: Well, I've been so fortunate to do so many of my dream roles. My heart lives in the cannon of the Rodgers and Hammerstein world, so Curly in Oklahoma, Billy in Carousel and the Captain in The Sound of Music are some of the biggest dreams of mine. Interestingly, when I've been asked this question over the last 10 years, I've said my dream role is to play, Bobby in Company. Now I’m in Company, but ironically, this production is gender swapping the role, so Bobby is being played by a woman, so I won't be playing Bobby this time.


ZW: You are no stranger to the Sinfonia stage. What are you looking forward to?

NR: I love it! This will be my second time with the full symphony, and my first time solo. I'm so honored to be invited. I mean Sinfonia has the embarrassment of riches in the talent pool. My friend, Matt Morrison performed during the holidays. Patti Lupone has performed. Demetrius has become such a great friend over the years that we can just banter back and forth and brainstorm and come up with really fun ideas. It’s so awesome doing something with Sinfonia because the scale and scope of what you can do is so much bigger than just doing a concert. So, I really will be trying to utilize all those big strings and the big sound.


ZW: What’s is like to work directly with Demetrius Fuller?

NR: I like that he is so easygoing and agreeable, and he has exquisite taste. I can trust that he's laid back, at the same time, if I need anything from him, I can absolutely ask, and it won't be an issue. It’s very refreshing to work with somebody that talented, but who can check their ego at the door.


ZW: This is a great time of year to escape winter in New York and get away to the Gulf Coast, which I understand has become sort of a second home for you?

NR: Yes, having gotten to know so many patrons personally over the years, it will be amazing to come back and see people who are now very good friends. The way Sinfonia hosts performers really feels like hanging out with friends, so that's what makes it truly special. The beauty of the venue is that it feels like a living room. You can see every single face in the audience. You can feel that connection coming back to you. So that's really magical.


ZW: The Holiday Pops celebrates the season. What inspires you this time of year?

NR: I grew up watching the Claymation specials as a kid, as well as A Charlie Brown Christmas, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, so their definitely may be something “grinchy.”


ZW: This is your first solo Sinfonia concert. How do you create the song list?

NR: The really beautiful thing about working with Demetrius on something like this is that we just get to pick everything ourselves. So, I'm pulling all of my favorite songs together. I grew up singing in church every Christmas, so I just really look forward to being able to do develop a “playlist” and create an amazing experience of holiday music … and maybe even something from Company.


ZW: Who tops your holiday playlist?

NR: I'm a super fan of Christmas, CDs. My favorites range from Nat King Cole to Vince Gill and from Ella Fitzgerald to Mahalia Jackson. And you can’t forget about Patti LaBelle and Anita Baker.


ZW: Sounds like you are a bit nostalgic.

NR: Yes, remember the old timey variety show specials that Dean Martin would host and brings up old friends? I hope we accomplish that kind of throwback welcome-to-my-living-room feel for my playlist. It’s going to be great holiday music and we're gonna have some fun.


Purchase tickets to Holiday Pops online at www.sinfoniagulfcoast.org.

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