EF - Do you ever read reviews?
CN - I didn't want to read any of the Jekyll and Hyde reviews
unless someone called me up and asked if I read it. I generally
don't like to read them because, like it or not, when you read
something that someone else said, it plants a seed in what
you are doing and you start to second guess yourself and lose
focus. You put out your best effort every night and be true
to whatever the director's intentions are. I like to read the
other show's reviews though [giggling]. I understand a
critic's job is to inform the public of what is out there.
I also realize what they are writing is their opinion. Luckily
for our show, the audiences read the reviews but went to see
it anyway. We are doing extraordinarily well even though the
critics said we were terrible. Why in the world would critics,
if people are being enriched in some way, proclaim themselves
as high and mighty and put people out of work. If they
killed everything but what they liked, they wouldn't have a
EF - What value does a critic have? People can make their
CN - When you are paying $75 a seat and you can't afford
to see everything then you will read the reviews and see
what other people had to say. A judgment can be made to see
if it is worth paying that amount of money.
EF - Of course you can end up seeing a show the critics
liked but you did not.
CN - Exactly. That is a problem.
There are a lot of contributing factors. When you have critics that
are panning things, then producers end up financing shows that are
Then you have writers who are trying to write things for the producers
so that critics won't kill it. All of the sudden, you are producing
things, not because it is a piece that is coming out of someone's
heart, mind, and soul but to appeal to the dollar. It is becoming
more about the business and less about the show. It has to be a
delicate balance of both.
EF - Interesting point. Brian said (referring to Titanic)
that Rosie O'Donnell, in part, helped audiences see the show by
telling them to make up their own minds.
CN - She did that for them. I think Titanic, for whatever
reason, was the least offensive of musicals last year. No one could sit
there and say how offended or how awful this was. They could not
say this is not what musical theater is supposed to be. No one
could make a harsh statement against it. Come Tony time, they
cleaned up for whatever reason and now tourists come and ask what
won the Tony. That is the easy one. If I'm not mistaken
there were rumors that Titanic was going to close before the
Tony nominations even came out because they were losing so much
money. Now, you can't get a seat. They won the Tony. I'm
thrilled for them that that happened. I have a lot of friends
in that show. I know how it is when everyone wants to hate
something but is whispering how good it is.
EF - It must be hard for an actor to remove themselves
personally from criticism. In the business world criticism
is often directed, not at the person, but at the person's
behavior or actions. In the theater industry you are selling
yourself and criticism could be taken personally.
CN - If someone says something really nasty and is a personal
attack it takes the credibility of the writer away. If it is an
overwhelming rave, it takes the credibility of the writer away.
Anything that is that extreme may be interesting to read but
takes away the balanced impression that should be there. No
one is perfect and nobody is so awful or else they wouldn't
be at this level. You wouldn't trust them with all the money
that these shows cost.
EF - This brings up a good point. Let me read you something
about a debate that is going on as to whether you can teach
acting. One side says "all instruction in acting is pointless...
you either have talent or you don't and you improve on it and
develop it through performance." The other side says "Yes, you
can't produce raw talent but that's all it is without training."
What are your thoughts about this?
CN - I think the two sides are really saying the same thing.
You have raw talent or not. You can either mold it or not.
EF - You went to Carnegie Mellon, didn't you?
CN - Yes. I talk to young people about theater and they say
I really want to be like you. I ask if they are singing and
they say yes, I'm taking voice lessons. I ask how old they
are. They say 13. I say don't. I say sing for fun, act for
fun. One of the things I learned best at Carnegie Mellon is
how to be a person, how to be a college student. Unless you
have lived, felt, and experienced your emotions as well as
read and learned things, you have nothing to act or draw on.
Some people can be very natural. For them, instruction is
not necessarily good. I think it is different for different
people. It is not hard to read a script and see what it is about.
If something is not specifically written down, it is up
to your creative force to fill in the blanks. Performing
allows an actor/actress to learn more.
EF - Let me say, you have a beautiful voice. What type of
training did you have to go through or is it completely natural?
CN - I have my mother to listen to. I used to be rebellious.
I still read reviews of when she was my age and it talks
about how crystal and clear her voice was. These are the
same words that are used to describe my voice. That is what
I heard growing up through listening to my mother. I have
been very fortunate with the voice teachers I have had.
Some people naturally have a gift. Age is another matter.
The physiology of the instrument is still forming. The last
voice teacher I had said to me you don't need a teacher, you
need a pair of ears to listen to what you are doing. You
know how to sing . You know your instrument. I had the
guidance of some wonderful people who listened, who weren't
trying to teach me a technique. That always scares me, the
use of a technique. Singing should be just opening your
mouth and letting it come out. It is not about putting your
jaw here, or lifting your palate here. If you do that it
is not going to be easy. It should be easy. When you
don't hear the singing or see the acting and just feel
the emotion you just become part of the performance. That
is ideally what we should all be shooting for.
EF - Now, you have been in many roles... Do you have a favorite?