Les Miserables was Nicholas Rodriguez’s first foray into musical theater. Now, he’s performing in a national tour of the show.
Rodriguez, who adopted the stage name Nicholas Edwards, is performing as an ensemble member and understudy to Enjolras in Les Miserables. The tour kicks off in Washington, D.C. and will come to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia starting Jan. 8.
“That’s a show I grew up listening to, that’s how I got introduced to musical theater was listening to the ‘Dream Cast’ album that my mom had,” he said. “I told my agent listen if you could get me an audition for this I swear to you I will do everything, I will do my best.”
The 2010 Bordentown Regional High School graduate wowed local audiences in his portrayal of Joseph in Joseph in the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he often sang solos in the choir. At the time, though, he hadn’t considered performing professionally.
“I was originally thinking that I was going to go down the path of illustration because I was always taking art classes,” Rodriguez said. It wasn’t until other people heard him sing that he was encouraged to explore vocal performance.
“I was always listening to songs and CDs and cast albums and belting them out for no reason…people thought I was the funny guy in high school,” he said. Teachers began to pick up on his talents and encouraged him to try out for the school’s plays.
After weighing his options, Rodriguez decided to go for it. “I thought, ‘I could do that, and I think I could do it better!’” he said.
From that first audition, Rodriguez’s counselor decided it would be a good idea for him to join the choir. At first, he hesitated, but he had no choice to take the class after his counselor decided to drop it into his class schedule without telling him.
This all happened his last two years of high school, and Rodriguez really wanted more out of the craft. So, he took his talents to Montclair State where he originally wanted to focus on voice.
“But after doing some more research and hearing from friends, I learned about music theater and I was like, ‘I should definitely change what I was going to apply for,’” Rodriguez said.
He decided that if he got into Montclair he would definitely attend because not only was it close to his family, but it was the only BFA program in the state for music theater. And despite having little acting or dance training, he was accepted into the program on the spot during his audition.
Rodriguez earned his first professional gig in Seattle during his junior year of college. He said he’s proud of his time at Montclair.
Rodriguez’s resume is impressive, to say the least. He’s starred in the international tour of Sister Act as Pablo, played Daveed Diggs in Spamilton, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Valentin twice in Kiss of the Spider Woman and Tom Collins in Rent, just to name a few.
This wasn’t the first time Rodriguez auditioned for Les Miserables, though. His first time, he didn’t get very far. In fact, he didn’t even get a call back. He was determined to make it the second time around.
“[The show] is something I could book,” he said. “Something I think I should be in and could be in.”
It wasn’t until March of 2017 that he felt like he got his big break. For months, he promised his agent at SW Artists the world if he could land an audition for the Les Miserables national tour.
After five or six callbacks where he was asked to sing different roles, he finally was given a role in his dream show. Rodriguez was cast in the ensemble and is understudying the character Enjolras.
The national tour begins in Washington, D.C. and soon after comes to Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, which will be a homecoming for Rodriguez and his family.
“I’m really hoping a lot of friends go…I should start messaging them about it now actually,” Rodriguez said with a laugh. The tour hasn’t been to the City of Brotherly Love in almost three years, according to Rodriguez.
What he’s most excited about for his homecoming will be seeing his family in the audience. His mother, Lillian, has been his main support since the beginning and even inspired him to get into singing.
“I still remember the cream-colored disc…we literally played it nonstop in the car and sometimes we would act out the songs,” Rodriguez said about his mother’s Les Miserables CD. That CD made him fall in love with the show at age 10. Then in high school, he was able to see the first revival of Les Miserables on Broadway with his choir, and he was sold.
Between his mother and his high school counselor who snuck behind his back and dropped choir into his schedule without him knowing, Rodriguez wouldn’t be where he is today. And let’s not also forget to thank the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary “Dream Cast” album his mom put on replay.
“It was that little CD,” he said. “That was the first music theater I remember.”