📷 : Dominic Clarson
Most recently, Nathaniel Morrison has been performing at the Adelphi Theatre in Waitress the Musical as part of the Original West End Cast, and along with his ensemble track, he understudied the role of Ogie on numerous occasions. Starting his musical theatre career with Dancing in the Streets, among his roles, Nathaniel has covered Seaweed on the Hairspray Tour, appeared in Sister Act the Musical and played Barry Belson in Jersey Boys. In 2018, Nathaniel joined BBC reality TV talent show All Together Now as part of the 100 judges with the show running for two consecutive years along with a celebrity special. As a singer, Nathaniel founded the West End Gospel Choir which has been running for thirteen years, and since the theatres closed until further notice, he took part in the Leave a Light On concert series which was set up by Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café. We spoke to Nathaniel about being in the Original London Cast of Waitress the Musical, being Artistic Director of West End Gospel Choir and his time touring with Hairspray.
What has it been like being part of Waitress the Musical as an Original West End cast member?
It has been incredible. There’s a sense of ownership and creativity that comes with it having had the opportunity to work with the full team of creatives to establish the West End production of this vibrant and powerful musical.
As Understudy Ogie, what is he like to play?
It’s so much fun as the lines you get to deliver are incredibly funny and witty! I’m naturally goofy and so is he in some ways so it’s great to explore the natural comedy element of his character as well as play the earnest and heartfelt moments.
The blocking/staging is challenging as it’s slick and precise so in the midst of executing the right essence of the character, you’re also focusing on that as well as your timing and intention. I always want to make myself and the creative team proud whilst sending the audience on an intended journey through the storytelling.
The cast recently surprised Pizza Express customers with a performance of Opening Up, how was this?
That too was a lot of fun as I do love a Flashmob and so when you’re executing one as part of a very talented group other than my choir (The West End Gospel Choir), I’m in my element! The whole experience is exciting! From the setting up, the reaction and the buzz and love of performing in the rawest form in front of people that don’t know what’s hit them and what better way to surprise them with than Sara Bareilles’s genius, vibrant and fun score.
📷 : David Bailey
You played Barry Belson in the UK Tour of Jersey Boys before joining the West End production, can you say more about your time in the show?
This role will forever be a landmark in my life having fought to be in this very unique, bespoke production and proving successful the second time round. Telling such a real, raw story, singing those remarkable hits, utilising and challenging my vocal skill and working so hard taking on the most characters ever in a musical production was an incredible and rewarding experience, one that I learnt a lot from and grew throughout as an artist. To also tour for two and a half years and then go into the West End production of the same show for a year was also quite an experience!
Five Guys Named Moe was shown at The Marble Arch Theatre, what did you enjoy most about this show?
I enjoyed the venue, the show, the songs and the brotherhood within the cast! It was also an honour (despite the many challenges I faced alternating two roles) to appear in a prolific Clarke Peters production of Five Guys Named Moe.
How is it performing as singers such as Stevie Wonder in Dancing in the Streets and Sammy Davis Jr. in The Rat Pack?
It’s empowering and fun to take on the diverse challenges, vocal and performance disciplines of such incredible and inspiring artists. Two of which speak to me as an artist and black, male performer in their own different ways.
📷 : Dancing in the Streets
How did you find your time as Gilbert and Cover Seaweed in the Hairspray Tour?
I saw this show in the West End and was like, “well that’s a show I’ll never be in” due to the high energy and physical demands on your body!! I likened it to the Insanity fitness program whilst singing on a stage.
Before you knew – I was cast in the touring production! I absolutely loved my time playing Gilbert on the Hairspray UK Tour, the colourful vibrancy and 60’s essence in the show, although the blessing being appearing in a show that promotes racial equality, love and endurance as well as the cardiovascular challenges in the production number You Can’t Stop the Beat, nicknamed You Can’t Stop to Breathe, although renowned choreographer Jerry Mitchell did not hesitate on numerous occasions in rehearsal to show us how it ought to be done – Nicest Kids and Motormouth Gang!
A particular highlight in that production was the opportunity to play Seaweed, not only a dynamic and incredible character role for any young black male in the industry, but a freedom and racial equality fighting love interest.
You performed in Sister Act alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Sheila Hancock, can you tell us more about this?
After a tough 2010 consisting of various life challenges, this show became the silver lining to my cloud! Landing the role of Understudy TJ was the godsend I’d been praying for, another show I enjoyed as a fan with my mum. The production itself is so special and dripping with some of the coolest of Alan Menken’s musical genius!
Joining a cast of absolute celeb and theatre giants including Patina Miller, Sheila Hancock and Ian Lavender was unreal!
Studying them and Whoopi Goldberg from the wings was a priceless masterclass as well as all other colleagues I was working alongside. I often pinched myself at the fact that I was achieving my life’s dreams on the London Palladium stage with such as Whoopi Goldberg.
Can you tell us about some of the recent concerts you’ve performed at?
So you may or may not have known about the Leave a Light On concert, a series of which I was privileged to be a part of! Prior to our current pandemic situation, I was in the process of producing a concert consisting of myself and The West End Gospel Choir. I’m hoping to still achieve that in the hopeful future.
📷 : BBC / All Together Now
You are founder and Artistic Director of West End Gospel Choir, how did this come about and can you say more about this company?
The West End Gospel Choir is a Theatrical Gospel choir with a Christian foundation for all cultures, ethnicities and faiths in its thirteenth year.
I founded it on the basis of there not being many communities, if any theatrical communities at all at the time where we could gather and reason as artists as well as sing.
That since then has developed into the industry and Gospel circuit renowned choir it is today and continues to, by God’s help, grow from strength to strength!
What was it like as a Judge on All Together Now?
All Together Now was a humbling experience which I was grateful for, from assisting with the devising of the television programme in its early stages, to the pilot and then the actual series.
Being a part of and observing the evolution of such a brand new BBC reality TV talent show was insightful and incredible. The fact that I was acknowledged and employed to appear on it for what I had achieved in the industry was extremely humbling and rewarding considering there are still so many that work so hard in the industry with their accolades and achievements not yet acknowledged, neither recognised!
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for a musical theatre training course?
Go for it!! Do your research, have a clear perspective about what you want to achieve in your training and see what course matches that best! I had no clue what was in store when I went to Mountview, but thankfully I made it through and everything came together!
Overall, if performing is a passion you wake up with every morning, you ought to pursue it and apply! Most second thoughts people have are to do with self-belief and financial challenges!
I’m proof that if you apply your faith to what you want to achieve in life, you will, irrespective of the path you take – get there. I say that with a working class background and parents that literally sacrificed and prayed my success into existence.
Fortunately, unlike the time I applied, there are so many different training courses out there to apply to now and so I’d like to believe that there is also so much more support available!
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