Ted Donato’s Son Nolan Didn’t Follow the Hockey Script – He Chose Theater

Donato instead opted for the seductive ramps of the theater, the place where he could pursue his deep love for singing and acting. These days, the youngest son of Ted Donato, a 5-foot-10, 150-pound former Dexter Southfield school winger, dresses up as Shepherd, that long-locked hippie in “Hair,” the iconic musical from the late 1960s which was brought back to life locally by the Company Theater in Norwell.

That’s right, that Donato kid is a hippie, man, and will be until at least the end of the game on August 21st. In life, like in hockey, you never know how the puck will bounce.

The Donato clan turned out in droves for last Friday’s opener, and we can confidently say there was no hockey fight, flashing red light or Zamboni in the cozy 350 room. squares. At one point, however, the joint shook like an old hockey barn when a model Vietnamese-era helicopter fell from the stage rafters, amid eerie, eerie flashing lights.

“We just had to bring that back,” said Zoe Bradford, Company Theater owner/manager for decades. “We used that in ‘Miss Saigon’ a few years ago.”

For those old enough to remember “Hair”‘s first run in Boston, at the Wilbur in the spring of 1970, the music and effects were a delightful throwback. Donato, a confident and gentle tenor, is sharp and engaging. The nearly 30-person cast navigates both acts with the efficiency, enthusiasm and confidence of a Stanley Cup champion.

(Aside from your trusty puck columnist: Shawn Verrier, whose day job is teaching at Derby Academy, steals the show as Margaret Mead.)

The wig that Nolan Donato needs for his role took some getting used to.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Donato graduated from Providence College this spring with a Bachelor of Theater Arts and was a late addition to the Bradford production. Unable to find the right fit for Berger, she connected with him via Facebook, offering him a trial after watching a brief video he posted at an open audition weeks earlier in Brighton.

“I didn’t know anything about him or his family, you know, his dad was a famous hockey player,” Bradford said, noting that she knew little about the sport. “So, thank goodness good ol’ trendy Facebook.”

Donato’s voice, Bradford said, won her over immediately. The challenge, she knew, would be for a “blue-eyed, respectful, clean-cut child” to don a shoulder-length wig and transform into a rebellious, sometimes rude character. The wig alone was a challenge.

“It’s heavy and it’s hot,” Donato said. “I would grow my own hair out if I could, but it wouldn’t look good on stage; my hair grows in all directions.

A bigger challenge was the character of Berger. By his own admission, Donato is quiet and reserved, unlike the rebellious and angry Shepherd. During his four years at PC, Donato looked forward to singing at 10 p.m. Sunday masses on campus, with songs such as “You Were on the Cross” and “Building My Life” among his favorites.

“That was probably the best part of college, to be honest,” he said. “It was such a great way to connect with my faith.”

Berger, whose religious community centers on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, forced Donato to connect with a time he didn’t live in and with a character unlike anything he’s ever lived in. starred in college musicals such as “You’re a Good Dude, Charlie Brown,” “Something Rotten,” and “Violet.” It was a litter he loved.

“I think they were a bit skeptical about whether I could find that fire to play George Berger,” he said. “I knew I had it in me. As we got deeper and deeper into rehearsals, I found that fire… someone who is rebellious and part of a revolution. This is the first time I play a character that’s kind of, you know, crazy.

Donato’s older brother, Ryan, a former Bruins draft pick, just signed a one-year contract extension with the Seattle Kraken. Jack, 24, ended his hockey career this spring after four years at Harvard and is aiming to become a players’ agent. The younger sister, Maddie, 19, is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina.

His father, Ted, of course, played nearly 800 NHL games, including more than 500 with the Bruins. Ted returned in 2004 to Harvard, his alma mater, and has been the men’s college hockey coach ever since.

Nolan left organized, career-oriented hockey after high school, although he briefly played club hockey in PC his freshman year before opting solely for intramural play. In addition to his role on “Hair,” he’s also embarking on a career as a solo singer/songwriter and plans to move to New York next year for a big time hit.

“I would love to continue doing theater and see where it takes me,” he said. “Go after New York for a while…see where it goes.”

Broadway can be a very tough game, a game that puts more players in the back than Terry O’Reilly once sent to Causeway Street. From his small footprint in the semi-professional theater ranks, Bradford thinks Donato might have a chance.

“I never encourage anyone to make a career out of it,” Bradford said. “But if that’s all you can think about from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, then I guess you better pursue it.” We will help you, if we can.

When the theater takes hold of you, it can be the devil to tremble. Your last name doesn’t matter. Your brand doesn’t matter.

For “Hair” performance times and ticket availability, please visit https://www.companytheatre.com.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected]

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