Matt Bogart and Whitney Bashor are the stars of the off-Broadway musical “Himself and Nora.” PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT
By Peter McDermott
“There are not many parts like it. She’s a complicated, fiercely-loving woman.”
That’s how Whitney Bashor explained her decision to play the title female role in the off-Broadway musical “Himself and Nora.”
“The Greatest Love Story Never Told,” as the tagline puts it, is the romance of Dubliner James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, his lifelong partner from Galway City. The couple had their first date in Dublin on June 16, 1904, which he immortalized as the setting for his novel “Ulysses.”
“I read Brenda Maddox’s biography of her [‘Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom’],” Bashor said. “She’s a historical character and so you have to honor that.
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“But you don’t have to be a Joycean to appreciate her story,” she added about a woman who pressed for equality in an age when society didn’t grant it.
“It’s a musical. So it’s accessible,” agreed leading man Matt Bogart when interviewed on June 16, or Bloomsday. “You don’t have to read much of Joyce to enjoy it.”
“It’s the little known story of a woman and how she had to deal with this mad man, at times,” he said, with a laugh.
The actor continued: “The message is that love is the most important word – it resounds through Joyce’s work.”
Bogart has played in every performance of Jonathan Brielle’s “Himself and Nora” over the past 11 years, including those in Dublin, whereas Bashor joined the show just two months ago.
“I’ve been enjoying the little changes that we have made. We think it’s gotten richer as it’s gone on,” he said. “It’s incredible to be able to work on it.
“I left a Broadway show [‘Jersey Boys’] to do this,” Bogart said of the current production. “I wanted to see it through. I believe in it.”
He’d like a return to Broadway, but this time with “Himself and Nora.” Variety’s critic, for one, agrees that “[t]here’s enough material here for a Great White Way hit!”
For now, what the New York Times has called a “lively, lusty spin through the love life of James Joyce” is playing at Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane, at Sixth Avenue, near West 3rd Street in Manhattan). Tickets for the show that’s directed by Michael Bush, with book, music and lyrics by Brielle, can be bought through Sept. 4 at ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000. For more on the show, go to HimselfandNoraMusical.com.