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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

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Creating Characters - "Handsome Nick" in A Bronx Tale

Mo Brady

It's A Bronx Tale Takeover Week at The Ensemblist. Every day this week, we hear from a cast member about the characters they've created, their take on the actions in the play, as well as some fun "easter eggs" that audience members can look for when they come to see the show. Today, we hear from original cast member Rory Max Kaplan, who plays Doo-Wop #1 and Handsome Nick.

 Rory Max Kaplan in  A Bronx Tale

Rory Max Kaplan in A Bronx Tale

Being a part of the four Doo-Wops is, in my opinion, one of the coolest things about being in A Bronx Tale and I have the privilege of being the first voice you hear at the top of the show. I can’t really describe what it feels like, hitting that first note and holding it, as the guys and I walk out from the wing to that street lamp — it’s a transcendent moment. These guys have become dear friends of mine this past year, so it quickly shifted from four actors who’ve got the pressure of starting this show perfectly to four brothers whose voices BLEND perfectly together as they leave their homes at 3 a.m. to sing their hearts out while the neighborhood remains at rest. We set the tone (ha-ha) for what the audience is about to experience. 

When we started rehearsals, my other character was named Nicky Zero; something about his father thought he’d amount to nothing. Then I think they tried Nicky Short Arms for a minute, because he never offered to pay the check (what 17-year-old pays any check?). Then they settled on Handsome Nick. Chazz said he took one look at me and it was obvious (his words, not mine). Handsome Nick is a fun dude to play (setting aside his racism). He really just cares about one thing: when you go out into the world — his only world being Belmont Avenue — the world sees you. Everything you do is to deserve respect — from what you wear, to the way you wear it, to how you stand and the way you hold your cigarette — it all has to be “just right.” Now, it ain’t fun playing a racist. NO SIR. But as Calogero’s friends we have to paint a realistic picture so the audience can really see that he is different from us. We handle that part of the job with great sensitivity and respect for our fellow actors with whom we have a major fight scene in Act II. We still manage to have a lot of fun with each other.

There is one iconic scene I get to be a part of as a biker gang member in the classic, “Now youse can’t leave” bar fight scene. Learning how to create this scene with our brilliant fight choreographer Robert Wesley was, in short terms, a trip. As a kid growing up dreaming of being an actor who does his own stunts and learning fight scenes, this was a dream come true. I get punched in the face, a bottle across the head, thrown out of the bar and a bat swat across my back. Oh yea, and, throughout rehearsals and all through previews, I had a chair broken over my back as well. But that got taken out before we opened. My back was grateful. I will never forget the day in rehearsals when we were working on that scene and Bob DeNiro was in the room with us. We showed him what we had been doing and he wanted to shift a couple things with the final moment of the fight between Sonny (Nick Cordero) and the Head Biker (Joe Barbara). He needed it to be more brutal, so he demonstrated what he meant. Now, no disrespect to Uncle Bob, Joe Barbara is a large individual. One of the biggest dudes I know. When I tell you how speechless we were watching Bob go all “Raging Bull” on Joe, slamming his face repeatedly, dropping him to his knees, throwing him to the floor then stomping his teeth in, I mean we were eyes as wide as can be, chins to the floor, speechless. We couldn’t believe what we saw.

Being a part of this Original Broadway Cast has been nothing short of a dream. I proudly admit that I have the most fun doing this show and I am so thankful for what I’ve been able to experience. I have a blast doing my part in the ensemble and get to have a whole different perspective when I go on as Calogero. The most unforgettable experience playing Calogero was the night I got engaged to my beautiful, now-fiancée. 

I’ve developed relationships with cast members I never knew I’d get the opportunity to have. I’ve been an actor for a long time and I’ve never quite had the “family” feeling I’ve always heard people talk about. But in the Bronx, I’ve experienced it now and there is no feeling quite like it.

 Rory Max Kaplan and the cast of  A Bronx Tale

Rory Max Kaplan and the cast of A Bronx Tale