Interview with actor, Alex Nee of ONCE

Actor Alex Nee is currently in the National Tour of ONCE which tells the tale of a Dublin street musician who is about to give up on his dream, when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs.  Prior to that, his credits include the International Tour of AMERICAN IDIOT (Johnny), RENT (Roger), SPRING AWAKENING (Melchior), and THE WHO’S TOMMY (Hawker).  Alex is a proud Northwestern alum.

The Playbill Collector (TPC): When did you start to learn how to play instruments?  How many can you play?

Alex Nee (AN): I started learning piano when I was 5 years old. I learned recorder in 4th grade through school (it was that or violin, and I wanted to play trumpet). Picked up trumpet in 6th grade. Then guitar during my freshman year of high school. At this point I can play 7 instruments (not including harmonica and the triangle).

TPC: What was the first musical or play you saw?

AN: I saw my first Broadway musical, CATS, when I was 6 or 7. I remember enjoying the show, but the most memorable part was when the pretty white cat was hiding in the audience, she knelt right next to my aisle seat and I starting petting her. To the actress’ credit, she went along with it and purred.

get-attachmentTPC: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

AN: I stretch before every show and tape my knuckles to play cajon. But those are just so that I’m able to do the show 8 times a week every week. ONCE actually has a built in pre-show ritual; about 15 minutes before curtain time, the actors all come out on stage to have a 6 song pre-show jam session. The set at that point is a working Dublin pub that the audience can come onto and buy a drink. It’s informal, raucous, and intimate. This is one of the best group warm ups we could have because the set list changes every night (from about 30 traditional Irish and Czech songs that we all know); it keeps us fresh as a band and lets us practice our musical chops.

TPC: What role are you playing in ONCE?

AN: I play Andrej and understudy Guy. As Andrej, I play ukulele, bass, guitar, mandolin, and cajon. I dance on tables, I fall screaming on the floor. Andrej is a passionate, young Czech immigrant who cannot wait to get promoted to being the area manager of a fast food chain. He bases his life around his dreams of success only to have these dreams crushed. But by getting wrapped up in Guy and Girl’s music project, as the bassist, he is able to find some catharsis and perspective.

TPC: What’s your favorite moment in the show?

AN: When we play “When Your Mind’s Made Up” for the first time in the studio. It’s such a big sound compared to the other music. By the climax, we’re all turned up to 11 and letting out all of the pent up rage and disappointment and hurt in these primal screams (in harmony of course). It’s very cathartic.

TPC: What’s your favorite backstage snack?

AN: Banana and peanut butter. Quick, portable, and filling.

TPC: Do you plan to do any sightseeing in San Diego?

AN: I’ve been to San Diego many times, because my grandparents have always lived there. So I don’t know how much “sightseeing” I’ll be doing. But this time around I’ll be staying in Ocean Beach, which will be a new fun area to explore.

TPC: What is your dream role?

AN: My dream role in a musical is the Emcee in CABARET. Too bad Alan Cumming has that role on lockdown for the foreseeable future. My dream role in a straight play is probably Katurian Katurian in THE PILLOWMAN. Such a visceral and dark role.

ONCE will be at the Civic Theatre in San Diego August 12-17th.  For more information check out:

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