Nadim Naaman is one of the brightest young stars in the theatre world today.
From his early days in The Sound of Music, right up to his recent roles in Phantom of the Opera as well as new musical Thirteen Days and the classic Marguerite, Nadim continues to push the boundaries and challenge himself in every performance he does.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Nadim and chat about his inspirations, his 2012 highlights, and what we can expect from his debut solo album . . .
Tell us a little known fact about yourself!
The most obvious little known fact about me is that I am half Lebanese. The other half is English, and I have lived here my whole life, but I am very proud of my mixed heritage and try to visit friends and family in the Middle East as much as possible. If you want to know where in London does good hummus, I’m your man.
Who or what inspired you to get into the acting profession?
I was most significantly inspired by my head of drama at school, Simon Dormandy. At first, performing was a hobby, of equal importance alongside music and sport. As the years ticked by, it eventually became very clear that I wanted to study theatre full time, and move into the industry in some way, but without Simon’s encouragement, it may not have been as a performer. He made me realise that acting was a noble profession, and provided you had the passion and commitment to counter the challenges of life as an actor, there was no reason not to go for it. He believed in my ability, and saw that I loved it enough to work hard, and also to get through the months in between jobs. Better to try than not, and be left wondering ‘what if?‘ in later life. I went on to read theatre at the University of Warwick, before training as a postgrad at the Royal Academy of Music, neither of which I would have applied for without Simon’s teaching and encouragement. I am still heavily influenced by him, some fifteen years after we first met.
2012 was an amazing year for you – what were your highlights?
2012 was an incredible year, and what a privilege to be working in London in what was a great year for everyone in the city. Being at the heart of the West End during the Jubilee and Olympic summer was a period of time I will never forget. On a more selfish level, I was thrilled to play Raoul so many times at Phantom in it’s 25th anniversary year. Fortunately for me, I was trusted to fill in for the brilliant Killian Donnelly for several weeks whilst he was off filming Les Mis, which meant I could throw myself into the role. Moving on from two wonderful years at Phantom, it was also thrilling to go straight into new work in London’s fringe, working at The Arcola on the new musical Thirteen Days, and on the new version of Marguerite at The Tabard – chatting to an emotional Alain Boublil after he saw our version was something I’ll never forget. The Fringe is the heartbeat of London theatre, and I would really encourage theatre fans to venture beyond the lights of the more commercial West End to discover many hidden gems, and to see more thought-provoking, exciting and daring work.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming role as Anatoly in “Chess”?
I can’t wait to get started on Chess, and am over the moon to be playing the role of Anatoly. To have the opportunity to sing music as iconic as Anthem, You and I, Mountain Duet and Endgame is very rare, and I am very grateful to those who believed I was the right man for the job. Shows like Chess, Phantom and Les Mis have been around for so many years that they have enormous and loyal fan bases, which explains how we have virtually sold out before we’ve even started rehearsing! The most exciting thing for me is the involvement and support of Sir Tim Rice. The show was his concept originally, his brainchild, and he has had to approve all of the major decisions so far – the casting, the venue, the orchestrations, the score we use, making Molokov a female character… This means that he believes in the vision of our creative team, and has entrusted them with his show. This is deliberately a new take on the material, and one that the shows’ writer believes in. All the decisions – gender of roles, age of characters, size of venue, use of the 2008 Albert Hall score – have been thought through for many months, and have been made for very specific reasons. Ultimately, this is the first time it has been fully staged in London since the original (The Albert Hall was a concert version). It really is exciting!
How would you describe your own music style – which we all hope we will hear on an album at some point in 2013?
I am delighted to announce that I will be releasing my first album in 2013, with plans to record in the spring once Chess is done. It is tough to describe the style specifically, as these will be songs I have written over several years, inspired by different events in my life and therefore different sounds and feelings. But I think it is predominantly acoustic/pop rock. Naturally, there’s a hint of musical theatre in there too. I am most proud of the fact that entire album will be original material – ten or eleven songs. Many singers release albums of covers/songs from the shows. There’s nothing wrong with that, but personally, I believe you need to earn the right to do that over many years of graft in the profession – John Owen Jones, and Ramin Karimloo for instance, have earned the right to assume people want to hear them sing their stunning versions of Bring Him Home and Music of The Night. I am a huge supporter of those who have the courage to share their own music with the world.
What advice would you give to young and upcoming theatre performers who are trying to break into the industry?
I think I would give three pieces of advice to those who wish to become performers.
1. Take your time. In this day and age, with reality TV castings and talent shows in particular, people often feel they are ready for everything. In truth, you can’t beat education, training and life-experience to ensure longevity in the industry. This is relevant as a singer, because just a few years of singing with a poor technique might cut your career short, no matter how brilliant the sound may be today, but this is more relevant as an actor. No matter how talented you might be, there is no substitute for life and life-experience in terms of helping you convey emotions of a character and words. Even the difference between an 18 year old and a 21 year old is vast, in terms of what they have been through in life, and how this can help them convince an audience they are believable within a role.
2. This one is hard, but try your hardest to develop a thick skin. Ours is a business where everyone has an opinion, and getting a job or a decent review generally boils down to one person’s point of view. Your playing age, your height, your size, the size of someone they’ve already cast… these are all things that are as important when auditioning for a role as your ability. Similarly, if someone writes a bad review of your show or specifically your performance, remember it is one person’s opinion. Often, the most successful shows are the ones slated by the press, and the ones that get five stars close a few months later. If you receive a knock, allow yourself a day or two to get it out of your system, but then move on. Onwards and upwards.
3. Have something else in your life. Use your skills to develop an enterprise that is not related to performing – in my case it’s teaching, for others it may be baking, massage/physiotherapy, personal training, temping, modelling, journalism… By having a secondary outlet, you ensure that you can keep yourself busy during the months between shows, and crucially, earn yourself a comfortable living. Doctors don’t go home and discuss surgery at the dinner table, so remember that switching off from performing and theatre is essential too. Allowing yourself a break from it all means going into work more invigorated and fresh. No matter how much you love it all, if its your profession it must be treated as a profession – it’s not healthy for anyone to live and breathe their profession 24 hours a day. I never tire of hearing soundtracks that I love, but if I’ve just done a two show day, I’ll probably not listen to a musical on the way home!
You can follow Nadim on Twitter @NadimNaaman, and for more information on the return of Chess, which runs at the Union Theatre, London between 13th February and 16th March, check out http://www.uniontheatre.biz/#/chess/4569833780 or follow the amazing cast on Twitter @ChessReturns
I must send a special shout out to Nadim for taking time out of his busy schedule to take part in this interview – an absolute gentleman who deserves such success and blessings in all he does!
Signing off for now,
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx