Nicholas Barasch and company in “The Butcher Boy” (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Interview by Joey Sims
Nicholas Barasch first charmed Broadway audiences at just 10 years old, singing “Somewhere” in the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story. He returned to Broadway at age 14, appearing as deputy/master Nick Cricker in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but is probably best known for his charming turn as deliveryman Arpad Laszlo in Roundabout’s acclaimed 2016 revival of She loves Me.
More recently, Barasch has been on the road with the first national tour of Hadesville, playing the main role of Orpheus. Now he returns to the New York scene to star in butcher boy, a new dark comedy musical based on Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel, with book, music and lyrics by Asher Muldoon. The show runs at the Irish Repertory Theater until 9/11 and is the first original musical presented by the intimate Chelsea theater in eight years.
Barasch spoke with The Broadway Blog about his history with the show, exploring darker themes in a new musical, and more!
What is the butcher boy about, and what can you tell us about your character Francie Brady?
butcher boy is more or less a coming of age story centered on Francie, a boy growing up in 1960s Ireland. He’s adventurous, he’s obsessed with comic books, he seems to have a fairly normal childhood existence. [But] his home life is not as good as he tries to convince himself – there is domestic violence and there is alcoholism.
When Francie steals her neighbor Philip Nugent’s comic strip, Philip’s mother Mrs. Nugent scolds Francie and calls her family “pigs”. This touches a very dangerous chord in France. He becomes obsessed with Nugents, and he also begins to see pigs everywhere, which on our show represents a smoldering mental illness in France. And then it gets worse from there.
So it’s about Francie and her family and how he copes with the tragedy that surrounds him. And things get violent.
butcher boy is Irish Rep’s first new musical in eight years. How did you become involved with the show – were you part of its development process?
I was, I did the first and only workshop in 2018, at Irish Rep. I was introduced to Asher [Muldoon], the genius author, composer, lyricist and co-orchestrator of the show. He started writing it when he was 17, which is… kinda crazy. Asher had seen me in big river, and asked me to play Francie in this reading. From there, I became very good friends with Asher, and in the back of our minds, we were hoping we could do a production, but we didn’t know.
The pandemic happened, and then Irish Rep finally adapted to this summer slot – Asher is still at Princeton, he has a year left – so now is the time, and I’m so lucky to be able to be part of it.
Okay, I hadn’t put that together – Asher is still in college?
He’s still in college! Yeah.
Savage. How does it feel to slip into this character’s mind for two and a half hours? It’s a funny show for sure, and a lot of fun, but it’s also a very dark journey.
Super dark. I just played Orpheus in Hadesville down the road – it’s not as dark, but I’ve had some training in how to deal with it psychologically. Your body doesn’t know the difference, you know, so when you threaten people, punch them and get punched in the face, your body reacts and your heart rate increases. There was definitely a learning curve in post-show relaxation.
But with each show, I start having more fun living in Francie’s world. Because it’s not, well… it’s like when you think back to middle school and think how terrible it was. But back then, you were just trying to survive. JThe storytelling does a lot of that work for me, so I can have that lighter connection with the audience.
Let’s end with a few quick questions. If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you could be?
Oh. Hmm. My God. Oh my god, it’s fast and I’ll be thinking for ages.
I’m going to pretend that was a quick response.
Super super, that’s all I care about. Probably an advocate for environmental change. Work for some kind of environmental organization.
What’s your favorite place after the show for a bite to eat or a drink?
I’ll say Westville. It’s more of a pre-show spot but, I just went there and it’s just really, really good.
My training secret is…
Oh my God. Right now I’m just trying to fight my right knee which is giving me a lot of trouble. It’s just physical therapy. Fixing my back and my knee from the road.
In ten years, I would like to be…
Write, act and direct, I would say. It’s a bit bold but I’ll go for it.
Maybe create your own new musical!
Maybe! We never know.
The Butcher Boy continues at Irish Rep until 9/11. Buy your tickets here.
Theater lover: Nicholas Barasch returns to New York with “The Butcher Boy” was last modified: August 1, 2022 by