Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Bandstand Star James Nathan (Nate) Hopkins
August 7th, 2017
by Nate Hopkins
Nate Hopkins (billed in the show as James Nathan Hopkins) makes his Broadway debut as Jimmy Campbell—a WWII veteran studying law who loves art and Ethel Merman and the first to join the Donny Nova Band as the sax player—in the new musical sensation Bandstand. The Berklee College of Music alum is a multi-instrumentalist who made his off-Broadway debut in NYTW's What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined. BroadwayBox caught up with Nate to talk about opening a show on B'way, the clever music complexities of the Bandstand score, and the time he jammed with the School of Rock kids.
1. When people ask me about who Jimmy Campbell is, I tell him:
I relate to Jimmy Campbell in a lot of ways. He has a penchant for the truth, and for avoiding the mental gymnastics a lot of us take to avoid the base truth of a subject. He cuts the crap and gets to the point. In the Navy, he was a communications officer and in civilian life he's a law student, and in both of those arenas I think that mindset serves him well. The conflict with Jimmy arises when it comes to parts of his personal life he feels like he can't reveal and how he reconciles that with needing to be honest. He's lost a lot and been through a lot, and the band he winds up with in the show helps him come to terms with himself and his experiences.
2. A small moment I love in the show that audiences might miss:
As someone who considers himself a musician first, all of the musical quirks in the show delight me to no end. There's a moment in "Band In New York City" where we sing the line "we're unstoppable like a catchy Gershwin song", and then the pit band plays back a snippet of "Rhapsody In Blue" by George Gershwin. Our arrangers and composers have done a wonderful job with this show and given the audience a respectful and swinging musical template. You can ask anyone else in a cast, when we attended the Sitzprobe I was jumping around like a kid at Christmas. This style of music is so much fun to play and there aren't many opportunities to play it these days so I'm relishing the chance while we're here.
3. The most surprising thing about putting up a show on Broadway was:
Honestly, I didn't know much about the amount of time and effort it took to put a Broadway show together. Since my first round of involvement with Bandstand three years ago, I've watched the show undergo massive sets of changes. The logistics required for every developmental lab, regional run, and the remarkable coordination between all of the departments on the creative team has been so cool to see firsthand. It really is a living breathing piece of art.
4. The difference between mastering one instrument and mastering several:
A lot of musicians have the capacity to jump around. If you know music theory you can apply it to any instrument. I would say the main difference between being proficient at one instrument and being proficient at several is the amount of time you're willing to dedicate to each one. There are some really remarkable players in our pit, for example, who have dedicated their lives to one instrument, and there are some really remarkable players who have used their time differently and are playing multiple brass instruments or multiple woodwinds. I admire every single one of them. Every time I feel like I'm getting pretty good I wander down to the pit, stare in amazement at these guys, and then wander back upstairs driven to keep practicing my ass off.
5. The artist or album I can/have listened to more than any other:
It depends on the day! I think I've played The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett to death—for those that don't know it it's an hour long fully improvise piano concert and it's BREATHTAKING. That man sings through his piano. I like to sample from a lot of genres; right now I'm bingeing a lot of Chance the Rapper, Kamasi Washington, James Booker and the new Kendrick Lamar album. My wife just saw U2 so Joshua Tree is back in rotation. And when I music directed the show at Howl at the Moon I'd play down the pop charts and wound up really liking Ed Sheehan and some Chainsmokers stuff. There's a ton of cool music out there.
6. One thing people might not realize about playing and performing a show on Broadway:
Our offstage choreography is just as important as our onstage choreography. In both of the wings, just out of sight from the crowd, people are changing entire outfits within seconds, and narrowing missing moving set pieces and props by a few inches. Everyone's path has been meticulously planned out so the onstage machine can keep rolling. I wish more people could see what's happening in the wings.
7. My craziest story from my time as entertainment director at Howl at the Moon is probably:
There are a few I probably can't mention here, but one of the most surreal and cool experiences I had at Howl at the Moon New York was getting to jam with the School of Rock kids for their Tony afterparty. They had hired our in-house Howl band, and we were told the kids may want to come up and play throughout the night. We opened with a 10 minute dance set after the Tonys were over, everything was grooving, people were having a good time. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder, and three of the kids asked if they could play at Hendrix song. Our band left, they came up, and then for the next four hours these kids SLAYED. Our band went up occasionally to fill in on bass and drums, but these kids did most of the heavy lifting. I have never met a more wildly talented and polite group of kids in my life.
8. My most memorable stage door experience at Bandstand:
One of the coolest things about our stage door experience is that we get to interact with a lot of vets who have come out to see the show. We've met a few World War II vets and many more veterans of Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, not to mention their families. We live for moments where we get to bring them backstage and hear their stories. I've met a lot of remarkable people thanks to this show. One of the vets I was fortunate enough to meet and bring back gave me a challenge coin, a super interesting and meaningful piece of military memorabilia. That meant a ton.
9. The musical cast recording I absolutely played out in college:
I think by college I was getting pretty into Sweeney Todd, Memphis, and In The Heights. Up to that point, my goal was to be in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which I did a couple summers before then. So that was always in rotation too.
10. Something I totally geek out over that has nothing to do with music or performing:
I love video games. I just got a Nintendo Switch and it is one of the coolest consoles I've played in a really long time. The new Legend of Zelda is dangerous, I can really get lost in that game.
Head over to Broadway's Jacobs Theatre to see Nate Hopkins' debut as Jimmy Campbell in 'Bandstand'.