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 14, appearing as Deputy/Master Nick Cricker in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but is probably best known for his charming turn as delivery boy Arpad Laszlo in Roundabout’s acclaimed 2016 revival of She Loves Me.
Most recently, Barasch has been on the road with the first national tour of Hadestown, playing the lead role of Orpheus. Now he returns to the New York stage to star in The Butcher Boy, a darkly comic new musical based on Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel, with book, music & lyrics by Asher Muldoon. The show runs at Irish Repertory Theatre through September 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 much 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 around Francie, a boy growing up in 1960s Ireland. He’s adventurous, he’s obsessed with comic books, he seems to have a pretty normal child existence. [But] his home life is not as good as he tries to convince himself – there is domestic abuse, and there is alcoholism.
When Francie steals his neighbor Philip Nugent’s comic book, Philip’s mother Mrs. Nugent scolds Francie and calls his family “pigs.” That strikes a very dangerous chord in Francie. He becomes obsessed with the Nugents, and he also starts seeing pigs everywhere, which in our show represent a mental illness that’s brewing in Francie. And then it gets worse from there.
So it’s about Francie and his family and how he copes with the tragedy around him. And things do get violent.
Butcher Boy is Irish Rep’s first new musical in eight years. How did you become involved in 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 show’s genius writer, and composer, and lyricist, and co-orchestrator. He started writing it when he was 17, which is…kind of insane. Asher had seen me in Big River, and asked me to play Francie in this reading. From there I just became great friends with Asher, and in the back of our minds we were hoping we’d get to do a production, but we didn’t know.
The pandemic happened, and then Irish Rep finally fit in this summer slot – Asher is still at Princeton, he has one year left – so this is the time, and I’m so lucky that I’m able to be a part of it.
Right, I had not put that together — Asher is still in college?
He’s still in college! Yeah.
Wild. What is it like to slip into this character’s mind for two and a half hours? It’s a funny show of course, and a lot of fun, but it’s also a very dark journey.
Super dark. I’m coming from playing Orpheus in Hadestown on the road – that’s not as dark, but I had some training of how to deal with it psychologically. Your body doesn’t know the difference, you know, so when you’re threatening people, and punching people, and getting punched in the face, your body reacts and your heart rate quickens. There’s definitely been a learning curve of unwinding after the show.
But with each show, I’m starting to have more fun living inside Francie’s world. Because he doesn’t, well…it’s like when you look back at middle school, and think how terrible it was. But at the time, you were just trying to survive. The storytelling does a lot of that work for me, so I’m able to have this lighter connection with the audience.
Let’s finish up with a few rapid-fire questions. If you weren’t a performer, what do you think you might be?
Ooo. Um. Gosh. Oh god, it’s rapid-fire and I’m gonna be thinking for ages.
I’ll make it look like it was a rapid answer.
Great great, that’s all I care about. Probably an advocate for environmental change. Working for some kind of environmental organization.
What’s your favorite post-show spot for a bite or a drink?
I’m gonna say Westville. That’s more of a pre-show spot but, i just went there and it’s just very, very good.
My workout secret is…
Oh my gosh. Right now it’s just trying to combat my right knee, which is causing me a lot of issues. It’s just physical therapy. Fixing my back and my knee from the road.
Ten years from now, I’d like to be…
Writing, acting and directing, I’ll say. That’s kind of bold but, I’m gonna go with that.
Maybe creating your own new musical!
Maybe! You never know.