Friday, March 17, 2023



By Brad Filicky

I was recently given the opportunity to check out an amazing show called Stranger Sings!, which is a parody musical of the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things. as well as sit down with the director this show, Nick Flatto. 

You can check out my review of the show right HERE, and read my interview below.


BRAD FILICKY: Hi, Nick! I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I saw the show last weekend and really loved it. I was just amazed how you utilized the small theater space. So, to start, were you a fan of the show before you got involved? How did you discover the project?

NICK FLATTO: Yes, I'm definitely a fan. [Writer] Jonathan [Hogue] is the number one fan of the TV show, I'll give him that, but I'm the number two. I've been watching it since season one. And this piece is really a love letter to our favorite show. We've been working on this show for about four years and it's become an individual obsession. And now the cast is into it too. We'll have the Stranger Sings! team come together and watch the show. We are in season three and will be in season four in a day or two. So, we are just the biggest fans of what the Duffer brothers created. It's a really incredible world. We connect with these characters, with the nostalgia. Growing up loving musical theater and sci-fi, I can relate to the boys and Eleven. So, I think we really grasp onto that and just love the ride that these characters have been going on.

BF: With the small space, what challenges did that present as far directing?

NF: We're so proud of what we created in the space. Our first, fully-realized production was in 2021. We had the normal proscenium setting: stage upfront, audience facing. Then, we saw the newly renovated Playhouse 46 during the pandemic and they made it in the round. We were still really passionate about this space. We said "this is our home." Luckily, they believed in the script enough to bring us in. Jonathan [Hogue] was kind of hesitant. "How are we doing this in the round?" "How is this gonna work in this kind of immersive, immediate space?" I saw it as an exciting opportunity for the project. I had never directed in the round, so there was definitely some fear involved, but I believe in this show as an ensemble piece and as an immersive experience where we could build this world for our fans. And I knew fans would love being 3-5 rows back, interacting with their favorite characters. So, I was just excited to latch onto this. 
There is a troupe of actors playing 50 characters, and I just loved them running around the space like they do. There's a lot we had to think about from every viewpoint in that space to make sure everyone felt included together. It really lent itself to a better show. These boys are on an adventure for two hours, and with these circular motions and running around and biking. So, we had to figure out how to make that work. We also wanted to create a home for the fans where the experience starts before you enter the theater. A lot theaters you don't have an opportunity to make an immersive experience like Playhouse 46.

BF: One thing that really stood out to me was the chemistry between the cast members. Was that something that just happened naturally or how did you bring that about? 

NF: We're very lucky that we found the best talent New York has to offer. And I think that's really a testament to what this script and title means for everyone. Our choreographer was working on another project. She heard the title and said "I don't know if I can make this happen." I sent her the script, she read it, and said "I'm in." Everyone knows who these characters are on screen and they wanna dig in and create themselves in the work. I love theater because of the community and what theater can do for those communities. Families are built from the experience. I say every day in rehearsal that we're bringing joy to people that need it most right now. The world's a crazy place, coming out of the pandemic. People are longing for this community. It's a spiritual event for us. It's really all about these fans coming in. We have the best fans out there. They're flying down for the fifth show from Ottawa and bringing bags of Canadian candy for the cast because they love them that much. You know, you don't get this in every show you're involved in. I think it's a product of a boot camp rehearsal schedule. We had 2.5-3 weeks to get the show up. There was a lot to get through in the round, including lots of choreography. It was very important for me to maintain this playful quality. 
I think what I really connect with in Stranger Things is the imagination. The boys playing D&D is the first scene. They create a world with their figurines on their board, and I wanted to start there. That's our first scene, and then we grow this world out of that. So, to answer your question, I think it's because we have very specific and clear blocking and choreography through the show. But I also left some room for ad-libbing in very specific places. Basically, I let them bring themselves to the role. I start rehearsal with a quote I heard from a mentor director of mine, which is "soar and we will catch you," meaning do your homework at home and bring yourself as a performer and artist. 
I think the best product comes from collaboration and from openness and listening. I wanted the actors to feel like their artistry is being represented. We're now extended until April 30th, and when these actors get to play for 22 weeks, there's a different gel that you don't see when it's one month sit down or a six week run. So they really have time to live in the roles.

BF: It seems very deliberate that the same actors play different roles, like it was written that way  because of who's on stage when. What do you think that brings to the production?

NF: I've been with this project for four years, and four years ago we had a cast of eleven, you know. Steven and Jonathan were separate people, Will was a human being, Nancy and Eleven were different people. We didn't have the intention to go there, but it was kind of a pleasant surprise that every kind of obstacle we hit when having to revamp the show made it better. We can't have an eleven person cast and musicians and sustain ourselves. So every step of this we were told we need to tighten cast and that allowed for comedy gold. I remember saying "hey, Steven and Jonathan can be the same actor" and Jonathan said "well, they're in the same scene. How do we do that?" and I said "quick change" and now it's playing the way it does. I made a really bad joke, saying "hey, what if Will is so expendable that he's a puppet?" I literally said it as a joke and then Jonathan was like "oh my God, I'm running with this!" And now it's the mother playing the puppet. 
So, the challenges are exciting, it's really just a lesson in meeting your challenges and realizing that challenges are actually beautiful things. We would have never made it what it is without restrictions and challenges that force us to think of new ways to present the story.

BF: That's great! And also, congratulations on getting extended into April. Do you have any plans for the show beyond the extension?

NF: We have many hopes for the show. We know how special it is. I can let you in on something... We opened the show in London and we opened the show in Melbourne, Australia this past fall along with New York. After our first run in 2021, we recorded a cast album. We won several awards. That publicity secured us a London run. We did a 13-week run in London. Melbourne called about a month later with the same interest, and with that news we were able to secure New York. New York was last to come because it's hardest to build. We thought we have to have this trifecta across the world happening simultaneously, and we made it happen. Our goal is to take over the world. We have interest in many more countries across the world. We're interested in touring. We're interested in keeping this New York run as long as possible. We would love to extend in to this summer, which can happen if audiences continue to join us the way they are. We recorded a seven camera pro shot, so there may be opportunity for others to see that. We don't know when or how that's being released, but we were able to get it recorded, which is exciting. There are many paths forward for us and it's because of this production and what they are bringing every day that has gotten us here.

BF: Are there any other franchises or IPs that you would like to get a chance to work with?

NF: What's been really wonderful about this opportunity is that Jonathan and myself are also producers, so we are getting scripts presented to us. Jonathan is working on one or two projects. I'm not sure if I can disclose what those are to you right now, unfortunately, but I have scripts in front of me from many different IPs. There's a Lord of the Rings musical out there, there's a Pokémon musical out there. There's a Friday the 13th out there. And we're excited. I think Jonathan is one of the best writers of his time and I feel very lucky to be collaborating with him. So, it's really just motivating him to dig his teeth into what's next, you know. But, Stranger Sings! took four years to build. Some people come and say "when are you gonna do season four and five?" and I just say "Well, it takes four years." I don't think there's parody and comedy quite like Stranger Sings! in New York.

BF: Thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on the show! I'm happy to hear it's doing great and glad it's extended. I'm telling everybody to go and check it out!
Thank you again to director Nick Flatto and the entire Stranger Sings! team for this opportunity. You can check out Stranger Sings! The Musical Parody right now at Playhouse 46 in NYC until April 30th, so be sure to get your tickets


No comments:

Post a Comment