Star of the Week: Paul Alexander Nolan is a standout star on Broadway

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Paul Alexander Nolan and Carmen Cusack in Bright Star

Bright Star is shining its way through this early part of award season, grabbing multiple nominations from Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and the Tonys. The new musical, set in the 1920s and 1940s American South, follows the story of two star crossed lovers who suffer a tragedy that tears them apart and 20 years later they find each other again and are able to live the life they should’ve all those years ago. Paul Alexander Nolan plays the leading man Jimmy Ray Dobbs, a young man full of promise and future. Nolan recently received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance. 

Nolan embodies Jimmy Ray in many ways, whom he descried in an earlier interview with Stage Door Dish stating that, “he is full of heart, confident and optimistic. He has his whole life ahead of him and is beyond his time…. He is an idealist, the ‘star quarterback’ with nothing to stop him… All the potential in the world.”  And Nolan’s potential is unlimited – he has been seen as Jesus in the 2012 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, Guy in Once, Pasha/Strelnikov in Doctor Zhivago, and Jervis in Daddy Long Legs – and all of that has only been in the past four years!

His performance in Bright Star, particularly his solo song, “Heartbreaker”, (which can be heard on their album, now out on iTunes), is so palpably genuine, it is easy to see just how alike the two men are.  He draws on his experiences of loss and love in his own personal life bring authenticity to Jimmy Ray. While he personally wasn’t nominated for a Tony this season, he was most certainly deserving of it. Each night he goes through such a complex range of emotions; from falling in love on the brink of obtaining all anyone could ever want from life, to losing everything and living as a broken man, and finally re-living the life that had been stalled twenty years earlier. The audience see a man who has lived a thousand lifetimes and is weighed down by the guilt of a life not fully lived, and the transition of seeing Jimmy Ray blossom next to the love of his life, played by Carmen Cusack, is a must-see experience.

In the same interview, Nolan stated that while hopeful for the success of the show, it was all still up in the air since it was still in previews at the time. “We are just telling our story, and right now, no one has a clue about what they’re about to see, so it is such an authentic place to tell our story, there is very little for people to expect,” Nolan said. With rave reviews from critics, audiences, and a slew of awards – including five Tony nominations – it’s evident that the story being told at Bright Star is one people are finding a connection with. And Nolan’s performance is certainly a credit to the show’s great success. 

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About Nicole N.

"Say yes. Show up afraid, show up prepared, but say yes." - Renee Elise Goldsberry

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