In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Kiss Me Kate at NextStop Theatre Company, meet Hasani Allen.
Joel: Where have local audiences seen you on the stage?
Hasani: Professionally, this is my regional debut. However as a rising senior in The Catholic University of America’s Musical Theater Program I have had many opportunities to perform at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater, The Kennedy Center, Atlas Performing Arts Center, and on the Catholic U stage. I’ve also had many great performing opportunities in DC and MD with Dissonance Dance Theater, Monumental Theatre Company, and as a mentor artist at Kensington Arts Theater Jr; that I am extremely grateful for. They have given me valuable experience and exposure.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of Kiss Me Kate at NextStop?
I was drawn by the opportunity to work with Michael Bobbitt; I have been auditioning for him since the end of my sophomore year and I always loved his directing style and professional manner. NextStop is unbelievable, Evan Hoffmann and everyone who works there are kind, determined, and hardworking. Being a part of this cast has been nothing but a joy from the first rehearsal.
What did you perform at your audition? Where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
I sang “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, they had asked for a piece from a classic Broadway musical. It doesn’t get much more classic than My Fair Lady. I received an email actually! April 22nd, I was out at lunch with a few good friends; I freaked out; they freaked out. We must have made everyone in the place nervous. I remember the excitement of the moment, it’s definitely a memory I cherish.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him?
I play Paul/Gremio/Priest/Haberdasher. There are definitely pieces of myself in each of these characters. Paul however is my main role, he loves to perform; no matter what the circumstances are.
What’s the show about from Paul’s point of view?
For my character the show is about getting an opportunity to perform, and to do what Paul loves. The cast of the “shrew” are facing their opening night, the miasma of energy and anxiety that courses through every performers veins before an opening night, is a feeling that is easy to replicate; but the absolute wonder at receiving an audience in opening night is not. This show calls on me to experience that elation, of opening a show, every single night.
Which character is most like you, and why?
My character Paul, he’s charming, genuine, and fiercely loyal.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced preparing for your role and how have Director Michael Bobbitt, Choreographer Rachel Leigh Dolan, and Musical Director Steve Przybylski helped you through these challenges?
I try to bring as much creativity and energy into the rehearsal space as possible,I love to try everything and make extreme choices; Michael has helped me ground myself and find clarity in my performing. Rachel is a challenging choreographer, she is fearless and very particular about her choreography; she’s made me look amazing. I’ve learned a lot about dance and and adding story/character to choreography working with her. Steve is a wonderful music director, whose knowledge of music is so advanced, that he instantly takes an idea and expands upon it. I came into this process with some semblance of how I wanted to sing “Too Darn Hot” and he helped me mine every measure for gold.
What is your favorite scene that you are in and not in, and why?
My favorite scene that I am in is “We Open In Venice.” It’s the first time the audience sees the show within the show. There’s fun choreography and a jazz breakdown at the end of the number that I am very passionate about.
My favorite scene that I’m not in is the “So In Love” Reprise. Fred (Paul Scanlan) sings it after Lilli (Karen Vincent) leaves the show. Paul’s (Scanlan) take on the number is poignant, his acting toes the line between expressivity and subtlety. I watch it on the moniter backstage every night. Paul and I have been friends for some time as he is a Catholic Grad; but it’s great to watch him work and finally get to work with him.
What is your favorite line and lyrics that your character recites and what is your favorite line and lyrics that someone else recites in the show?
One of my favorite lines of mine is The Haberdasher’s: “The cap your worship did bespeak.” It’s his only line, but I built an entire character around it.
My favorite lyric in the show is in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” and it’s sung by the Gangsters: “Recite a few lines from Othell-a, and she’ll think you’re a helluva fella.” Makes me chuckle every time.
What is your favorite song that you sing and your favorite song that someone else sings and why?
My favorite song that I sing is “Too Darn Hot”; it’s uniquely my own and I think it shows off a lot of my personality as a singer and what kind of music I like to listen to.
Favorite song someone else sings is Emily Levey’s “Always True to You.” I always dance backstage to it. She’s phenomenal!
What does Kiss Me Kate have to say to today’s audiences?
Every show has a unique voice and is relevant to today’s audiences no matter when it was written. Kiss Me Kate is predominantly a love story, but it is also a story of a community of performers. These performers have deep personal relationships, as they have been with each other for a long time. The audience is brought into this community as they experience the show. The Industrial theater is an intimate space, and we like it that way. The audience is truly immersed; and as Man in Chair from The Drowsy Chaperone would say “Isn’t that the point?” The relevance is unique to the individual audience members experience.
What’s next for you after Kiss Me Kate?
I am starting my last year at the Catholic University! I’ve got a few auditions lined up, nothing set in stone yet. But I’ll also be a mentor artist at Kensington Arts Theatre for their 2015-2016 Jr season.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Kiss Me Kate?
It is my desire that audiences leave whistling the songs and dancing to their cars. It’s a fun show, and I just want audience members to laugh their butts off and be amazed.
Running Time: Approximately 2 ½ hours including a 15-minutes intermission.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ at NextStop Theatre Company: Part 1: Director Michael J. Bobbitt.
Lauren Honeycutt reviews Kiss Me Kate on DCMetroTheaterArts.