Give Pinocchio his due.
The puppet who wanted to be a real boy put a 6-year-old Albert Nolan on the road to becoming an actor.
Today, Nolan isn't a full-time actor — he owns Nolan-Kimball Interiors — but you wouldn't know it from his resume with Theatre Baton Rouge.
A resume that grows longer with TBR's "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," where Nolan will play nine characters.
This isn't new territory for Nolan. He played 15 characters in the theater's 2007 production of "Greater Tuna."
"But this show is different, because it's a musical," Nolan said. "Not all of the characters sing, but a lot of them do, and I have to sing differently as each character, and that's more difficult because all of these people are so different."
The show will run Nov. 7-10 and Nov. 14-17.
Nolan plays the men and women of the D'Ysquith family, all of whom are in line to be the ninth Earl of Highhurst.
Enter the lowborn-yet-dashing Monty Navarro, played by Jonathan Thomas, who learns he's eighth in line for the earldom and decides to speed up the process by knocking off his predecessors one by one.
Like a cat, Nolan goes down after nine lives.
Soon Nolan will be on to the next role to add to his repertoire, which is already filled with so many great personalities, including Roger DeBris, the disastrous Broadway director from TBR's 2008 production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers." That role is Nolan's favorite so far.
Other roles include King Arthur from the theater's 2015 production of Eric Idle's "Monty Python's Spamalot," Don Lockwood in 2009's "Singin' in the Rain" and Latin lover Adolpho in 2017's "The Drowsy Chaperone."
All are musical comedy roles along a path paved by Pinocchio, Nolan's first stage role at age 6. It was a school production in Yazoo City, Mississippi, where he grew up on Grand Avenue.
Nolan's parents were singers who supported the local arts scene.
"My mom and dad, they felt that I could carry a tune at a young age, so I was always very creative in the arts," he said. "That was just kind of what I did. I became a choir boy later, and I did community theater when I was young."
Then came college at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where Nolan majored in interior design and minored in musical theater. After graduating in 1989, he took an internship in Baton Rouge and stayed in the city.
"I took about a 10-year hiatus from musical theater that I used to build up my clientele in interior design," Nolan said. "When I opened my own business, Nolan-Kimball Interiors, I auditioned for my first show at the theater — it was Baton Rouge Little Theater then. That was the supporting role of Bill 'Lucentio' Calhoun in 'Kiss Me Kate' in 1997."
Nolan has since averaged two shows a year on TBR's stage, depending on his business schedule. He's thought about answering casting calls for movies and New York plays, but decided community theater is the best fit for his life.
He now sits on the theater's board of directors, which made him one of the first people to learn that "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" was on the 2019-20 schedule.
Nolan saw the 2012 Tony Award-winning musical comedy on Broadway, and dreamed of playing the D'Ysquith family, which includes an aging socialite named Hyacinth.
The name may conjure images of popular British comedy character Hyacinth Bucket of "Keeping Up Appearances," which Nolan incorporates into his character.
"I've also given her a Julia Child voice while pulling from Hyacinth Bucket's characteristics," Nolan said. "There's also an older fellow and a young, rich flamboyant fellow. With each of these characters, there's only a 10-second costume change. Before we added music and costumes to it, I'd have to ask, 'Who am I now?' I told everyone that I'm going for blood, so I was very well prepared."
What could top this?
"I've thought of directing," Nolan said. "Here I am at 53, and I've never directed a production, so, yes, I'd like to give it a whirl, and I've talked to (Managing Artistic Director) Jenny (Ballard) about maybe being her assistant director one time and see if I like it. What I love about Jenny, she likes to hear your opinion. So, I feel that my intuitions are good."
Looking back now, Nolan has a soft spot for Pinocchio.
"Playing Pinocchio is where I was bitten by the acting bug," he said. "And once you're bitten by that bug, it stays with you through life."
'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'
A Theatre Baton Rouge production
WHEN: Nov. 7-10 and Nov. 14-17. Performances at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.; additional matinee at 2 p.m. Nov. 9
WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge, 7155 Florida Blvd.
TICKETS/INFO: $31, $12 for students. (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org