performers on darkened stage from 2018 Production of Lucretia

Graduate Spotlight: From Classes to Broadway

Montclair State University’s Nathan Angelo debuted on Broadway before even finishing his degree

Posted in: Cali News

Nathan Angelo, a BFA Musical Theatre major, holds a copy of his script as he announces on Instagram his Broadway debut in the ensemble of the original Broadway cast of Here Lies Love. (Photo courtesy Nathan Angelo)

When Nathan Angelo, a BFA Musical Theatre major, and student of Cali School of Music’s Professor Peter Stewart, attends Montclair State University’s Winter Commencement, he’ll take a final curtain call on a college career that saw him land a dream job on Broadway before completing his degree. During his final semester, Angelo debuted in the ensemble of Here Lies Love, a musical that featured the first all-Filipino cast on Broadway, some of whom plan to attend the ceremony on January 8 to applaud Angelo’s achievements, both on and off the stage.

Angelo was eating dinner with friends on campus when he got the casting call for the disco-bio-musical co-written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim about the life of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. After calmly thanking the casting director, Angelo jumped up, clapping his hands, pounding the table and shouting, “I’m going to be on Broadway!” He performed with the original Broadway cast in previews and 149 regular performances before Here Lies Love closed this past November.

“You don’t think things like this happen, and then they do,” says Angelo, 21. “I’m so fortunate to have been able to have such a grand and really authentic and important start to my career, to open and close a Broadway show, operating at the highest level of the thing that I’m training for and pursuing.”

A young man in sunglasses in front of a Broadway theater.
Nathan Angelo takes a selfie outside the Broadway Theatre, home of his Broadway debut on June 17, 2023.  (Photo courtesy of Nathan Angelo)

On opening night, Angelo thanked his “Montclair family,” saying in an Instagram post, “Without y’all I wouldn’t possess the skills or the work ethic to pursue this dream of mine.”

“Nathan was a consummate Musical Theatre student,” says Associate Theatre and Dance Professor Peter Flynn. “From his first day, he was genuinely engaged and hungry to know more about the American musical theater, his place in it, and how he creates more opportunities for himself and other actors like him.”

Nathan Angelo in two photos.
Nathan Angelo as he appeared in the official cast photos for Here Lies Love. (Photos courtesy Nathan Angelo)

Angelo is a first-generation Filipino American whose parents immigrated to San Jose, California. They struggled to make ends meet in Silicon Valley. “A lot of my childhood I was navigating the fact that my parents were never home and always wondering why. But now, being older, I realize they were just trying to make sure I was OK, that we had food, a place to stay and clothing,” he says.

Being part of the Here Lies Love cast helped Angelo rediscover and reflect on his relationship with his Filipino culture and what it means to be first generation. “It’s given me a lot of perspective on what’s important, what to be grateful for and what is necessary versus what is accessory. That kind of upbringing sets an individual up to have a different kind of outlook on the world and perception of the world around them,” he says.

“I feel I’ve always been hyper-aware of my place in society and my capabilities. I’m very fortunate. I’m very grateful. I’m very blessed and I don’t take any of that for granted.”

Two people smiling.
As a sophomore, Nathan Angelo, a Sinatra Scholarship recipient, had the opportunity to meet Tina Sinatra during her visit to campus in 2021. (Photo by Mike Peters)

Angelo learned of Montclair’s BFA Musical Theatre program from an online forum for arts students, which happened to include a Musical Theatre student already attending Montclair for its combination conservatory training and liberal arts education. Angelo appeared in various productions with the University’s College of the Arts, including On the Town and Pippin.

He was also a regular presence in the Musical Theatre offices, Flynn says, “sometimes bringing home-cooked Filipino dishes as a ‘thank you’ for the training and support we were providing him.”

His good fortune included generous scholarship support, including the Sinatra Scholarship, that he combined with student loans and part-time jobs to make ends meet. Landing the Broadway show wasn’t just a break into show business; it came just in time to pay rent and tuition, allowing him to take a full-time load and finish his BFA a semester early. “His decision to finish his final semester speaks volumes about his integrity and passion for his craft,” says College of the Arts Dean Daniel Gurskis.

A student in a cap and gown smiles and raises his arms.
Nathan Angelo at Commencement on January 8, 2024.

“I live in New York so I was getting up early, taking the train, going to school, finishing school, going straight to the theater, taking a nap, warming up, doing the show, going home, doing it again,” Angelo says. “It was nuts, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

His advice for others looking for their first big break? “Be an open channel and allow the things that come into your life to be received and interpreted without a preconceived bias,” he says. “Be open to new things, be open to new people and have faith that things will work out. If you put out good energy, you will receive good energy back.”

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren.