Priscilla Queen of the Desert star Nick Adams has worked consistently in Broadway ensembles for the past five years, showing off his dancing skills in shows such as La Cage Aux Folles, Guys & Dolls, The Pirate Queen and Chicago. Adams has come a long way since gaining tabloid attention for his buff physique in A Chorus Line (including a "rivalry" with Mario Lopez), making the rare jump from ensemble to leading man. For the past year, the fan favorite has been bringing audiences at the Palace Theatre to their feet nightly as feisty young drag queen Adam/Felicia, who crosses the Australian Outback with two pals (Will Swenson and Tony Sheldon) in a bus called Priscilla. Broadway.com recently caught up with the two-time Broadway.com Audience Choice Award winner, who filled us on Priscilla, Smash and the politics of the Broadway ensemble.
Priscilla will celebrate a year on Broadway next month. How is everything going?
It’s amazing. I’m still having a fantastic time, and the show is going well. This is the longest amount of time I’ve been with a show, and it’s still really fulfilling.
What's been your favorite part about this experience?
This is the most responsibility and biggest role I’ve had in a show, and essentially it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So to actually have someone give me this opportunity and then for me to believe I can do it was a really big step for me. I love the show; I love the material; I love the way it affects the audience. People leave the theater so happy and that is really awesome for all of us.
You’ve accomplished the dream of every ensemble actor—making the jump to leading man—and you did it quickly. What’s been the key to your success?
I came to New York and was automatically seen as a dancer. Then I’d go to a callback and sing for them, and they’d be like, “Oh, he’s a singer too. He can cover. This is awesome.” So that is how I found my way in the Broadway community very quickly. But honestly, I don’t think I was ready for this opportunity until now. If I'd been given the opportunity right when I moved to New York, I would have been a little bit overwhelmed with the responsibility and the pressure of it. In La Cage, I got to a point when I said, “All right, the next show I do, I’m ready. I’m putting that out in the universe that I’m ready to make the step now and really use more of what I’m capable of.”
Kind of like The Secret? Putting it out there and hoping for it to happen?
Exactly! When I first read that book, I was like, "This is how performers have to live." You have to believe that this lofty dream is going to happen. You have envision things working out the way you want them to. As soon as I heard Priscilla was coming to New York, I just had a feeling that this was the role that would take me out of the ensemble. And it’s so hard to do. It used to be that you worked your way up through the chorus to playing small parts and then maybe, eventually, being a star, but now I feel casting directors either see [actors] as “Oh, he’s going to be a lead,” or “He’s going to be in the chorus.” So I’m proud that I went against odds and made it happen.
Your role is so high energy. How do you prepare every night?
A lot of sleep, and I go to the gym before the show for at least one and a half hours to get my blood flowing and get my body awake. Then I come to the theater and do a physical and vocal warmup. And it’s a mental thing too: I need to mentally get prepared for the journey and the amount of energy that is going to be expelled. I can get anxiety thinking about, “Oh my god, here comes two and a half hours of you sweating your ass off.” But I try to look at it one scene at a time. You have to find your peaks and valleys in the show.
What's it been like to work with Tony Sheldon and Will Swenson?
They are like family to me. They have become two of my best friends. The chemistry we have onstage is very true to the relationship we have off-stage. Tony said the first week of rehearsals in New York, “This is it. This is the combination!” Honestly, I have become so much better because of the two of them. And I’m so thankful that I had people who were willing to treat me, off the bat, as an equal. They have had much more experience playing roles than I have, but Tony came in and was like, “You’re the Broadway veteran. This is my first Broadway show.” And I was like, “Are you kidding me? This guy is amazing!”
So many exciting guests come to Priscilla. Who got you starstruck?
I met Guy Pearce [Adam in the film Priscilla] at the opening night. That was just surreal! He hung out with my family and me for most of the night and was super gracious and really flattering. It was his first time seeing the musical version, so it was awesome to see his emotional response. He was about my age when they did the film, and just to get his stamp of approval and say, “I love what you did with it” meant the world to me.
After three shows in drag (Chicago, La Cage, Priscilla), what is the best tip you've picked up?
I think honestly, it’s all about the eyelashes. Your eye makeup can look a little bit rough around the edges but once you glue on some big black eyelashes, it somehow all comes together [laughs].
You won Favorite Diva Performance at Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Awards. What's one of your best diva moments?
I think when I get to do that aria in the show, where I fly out over the audience in a giant silver shoe. I don’t know how I will ever top that moment in a musical! Sometimes when the crowd responds to that, I literally get teared up on the wave of applause that comes toward me. I don’t know if there is anything better, honestly.
Any fun stopping photographers from taking your photo, as Patti LuPone did in the middle of “Rose’s Turn”?
We did have somebody that was literally taking photos the entire show and then had the nerve to come to the stage door and say, “Can I get some photos of you?” I said, “I think you got enough, actually. Didn’t you get enough over the last two hours?” [Laughs.] I called him out on it. I felt bad.
You’ve had some “out there” moments onstage. Is there anything you wouldn’t agree to do?
I haven’t been put in the situation where I’ve had to say, “No, I won’t do that.” I mean, I’ve been almost naked in a handful of shows, so that is sort of...I guess not a problem [laughs].
What's you best advice for staying in such amazing shape.
Maybe get with a trainer to give you a guideline of what to follow so you know what you’re doing. I try to work out at least four days a week. And staying away from sugar, especially for men, is the key! Sugar is the biggest contributor to belly fat in guys, so if you want to have a six-pack you need to lay off the sugar.
Good advice. You have a very active relationship with your fans via social media. What's one of the best interactions you’ve had?
I have been able to raise a lot of money for charities using that as a tool to get attention. This past year, I raised over $20,000 for the AIDS Walk in New York. That, to me, is the best use of it because it promotes the show and helps a cause and engages the fans. I’ll try to stay active with the fans and send them messages back so they know I appreciate them. I think it helps the show, and what helps the show helps me stay employed![Laughs.]
What's on tap for you in 2012?
I just did a guest star on Smash, so I am excited to see that. And I’ve got some things on the horizon that are still in the works, but I would be making more of a shift to TV, which would be great, so keep your fingers crossed that that happens!
See Nick Adams in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre.