Words by Moira Armstrong
Photography by Matthew Murphy
Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer is making her Broadway debut in Hadestown after a successful music career, performing with stars like Jason Mraz and Gloria Estefan and recording her own songs. Her stage credits include In the Heights, West Side Story, and Fox’s Grease. She combines the two talents for her role in Hadestown, bringing her violin and voice together to play Clotho. Curtain Call is proud to have been able to discuss the roots and relevancy of Hadestown and more with these two incredible ladies this month.
Hadestown has had a long journey to Broadway. When and how did you first become involved?
I first became involved with Hadestown back in 2015 where I did a workshop and then another one in 2017 with the New York Theatre Workshop. This past December I got a call asking if I was available to audition for the Broadway company so I flew out to NY and the rest is history.
How have you seen the show evolve over time?
The music has always been gorgeous, although I have seen some of the songs change quite a bit over the years (even during the rehearsal process). As I wasn’t involved in the Off-Broadway, Canadian or London productions, I can’t be as specific, but from what I know, in each incarnation, the story has gotten tighter and tighter and there was the addition of the Worker chorus (which I can’t imagine the show not having). Also, the set, costumes, and even some character choices all have evolved gradually and organically where now everything sits perfectly.
You often share the stage with Jewelle Blackman and Kay Trinidad, the other two Fates. What has it been like working with them?
They are both very talented ladies. Vocally, we all have very different voices but they somehow blend very well together so it’s fun to sing together.
How about with the rest of the cast, and the creative team that has envisioned the show?
The cast is phenomenally talented, beautifully diverse and I am honoured to be a part of this glorious company. But what I think I’ve been most inspired by is our incredible creative team, who are comprised mostly of newly Tony Award-Winning women! I am so inspired by each and every one of them, as they continue to push the envelope and show us the way women in theatre and the world could be.
But what I think I’ve been most inspired by is our incredible creative team, who are comprised mostly of newly Tony Award-Winning women!
What has been your best memory throughout your experience?
There are so many to choose from! But one of my favourite earlier memories is circling up with the company before our first performance ever as our director, Rachel Chavkin said a few words to us. Then we all put our hands in the centre and on the count of three, everyone said “Go Team! Huh!”
What was it like making your Broadway debut in this role?
I couldn’t imagine a more special show to be making my debut with! Hadestown is one of the most unique and beautiful shows I have ever seen or had the opportunity of being a part of. It has such a powerful message and it feels purposeful to come to work every day. I am honored to be a part of this tribe of unicorns and it really is a dream come true for me.
Does playing an instrument throughout the show change your performance?
It definitely adds another layer. I’ve been playing the violin since I was three years old so, at this point, it’s like a natural extension of me. Although it’s not as common, I’ve had to play violin in shows before and it’s such a fun treat when I get to incorporate it into my storytelling.
You’ve had an extremely successful music career in addition to your career onstage. What similarities and differences have you found between the two industries?
Obviously, with a stage career, the range and roles you can play can be really wide and diverse. With a music career, more often than not you are writing your own music and can change it as often as you like, as you are usually the captain of your own ship, so to speak. However both are very demanding and in either case, you’re putting on a show and telling stories, connecting with audiences and hopefully touching hearts along the way.
What made you want to pursue a future in the arts?
I knew from a very young age that my vocation was going to be a life in the arts. I use to write plays when I was about 6 or 7 and put on these shows for my family. My sisters and I would play all the parts and we had blankets and everything for curtains. It’s been my passion for as long as I can remember and I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve never had the need to do anything else. When expressing myself fully, as I feel I can do best in an artistic medium, I feel an expansiveness that makes me feel very connected to my human potential. The arts saved me in so many ways and I feel very grateful to be a part of a community where we have the opportunity to do the same for others.
This story and your character are based on ancient legends, but the story resonates deeply with modern audiences. What is it about this version that feels so relevant for today?
I think a lot of time when reading about ancient legends and gods, there is a vagueness and certain inaccessibility that comes with the territory. What Rachel and Anaïs [Mitchell] have done so beautifully, is to really be specific in highlighting who exactly these characters are and showcasing the humanistic qualities of these gods. This specificity allows it to resonate universally and I don’t think there is a single person who can’t relate to the story.
This specificity allows it to resonate universally and I don’t think there is a single person who can’t relate to the story.
Were you familiar with these Greek myths before you joined the cast?
I was always very fascinated by Greek mythology growing up but I didn’t know too much about the Fates so I did a lot of research once I was cast.
How has that influenced your interpretation of your Fate?
In traditional mythology, the three fates (Clotho—bearer of life, Lachesis—measurer of life, and Atropos—finisher of life) are depicted as three old women who wear white and predetermine everyone’s fate. Based on a number of factors, it made sense that I was Clotho. However, in this show, the Fates also act as the wind which is an interesting twist. While it was influential to understand the history and timelessness of these characters, there was quite a lot of room for imagination and creation. I love the majestic quality I envision when I think of Greek gods in general so I definitely infused some of that almost regal nature into my essence. However, I definitely felt I had the room to play and so there is a lot of sass in my Fate as well.
Have there been any unexpected reactions?
One time I saw someone walk out before “Why We Build The Wall.”
Any reactions that were particularly touching?
There was one night when an audience member was so distraught by the tragic ending she literally bellowed “No!” and at the end of the show, the incomparable André de Shields, gave her his handkerchief. Lin Manuel-Miranda was at this performance and even tweeted “That will not happen to you at the movies, kids.”
This show makes huge strides in representation for people of colour. What has being a part of that been like for you?
It’s been amazing. A lot of times shows group together different characters by race but this show doesn’t do that at all. It’s what our world looks like today and it’s very important to keep representing our entire human family on stage the way Hadestown does so beautifully.
Hadestown had an extremely successful night at the Tony Awards. What emotions were going through your head when you performed?
When we performed our number I was in the world of the show, but there was definitely an underlying feeling of excitement and a lot of “pinch me” moments before and after! It was a huge night for everyone and so exciting to be a part of it all.
When the show won Best Musical?
Relief and sheer rapture.
What is your favorite moment in the show?
I have a lot of favorite moments. Like when Hades commands Orpheus to sing and slams his chair down really hard undoubtedly scaring a few audience members in the first few rows. I always have such a blast singing “When the Chips Are Down.” But I think the moment that moves me the most every night is “Road to Hell 2,” sung by the brilliant André de Shields. It feels as if in that moment, everyone in the theatre is in touch with the heart of their own Humanity.
It feels as if in that moment, everyone in the theatre is in touch with the heart of their own Humanity.
What message do you want people to take away from Hadestown?
Hope and to never give up.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Please feel free to come and find me on social media and I hope everyone can come out to see this marvellous work!