It wasn’t until performer Sergi Robles was working at an event in New York City and saw “The Piano Man” take the stage that he felt directly connected to Billy Joel’s music. In FST’s latest Summer Cabaret, New York State of Mind – All the Hits of Billy Joel With The Uptown Boys, Sergi brings some of Joel’s biggest hits to life with energy and charm.
We sat down with Sergi to learn more about his favorite Billy Joel song to perform, his previous experience starring in musicals like Hairspray, and how his time growing up in Florida played a role in his decision to pursue a career in the arts.
New York State of Mind is a high-energy musical celebration of Billy Joel’s iconic songbook. Do you have a personal connection to Billy Joel and his music?
I wasn’t too familiar with Billy Joel’s music until I saw him perform at an event that I was working at in New York City. He was absolutely captivating onstage, and I was floored by his vocals, lyrics, and stage presence. As an artist, he seemed powerful and as relevant as ever. His performance inspired a long-term way of thinking about my own career and how I want to mature into my artistry down the road.
In New York State of Mind, you sing “The Longest Time,” “This Night,” and part of “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” Do you have a favorite song to sing in the show? If so, why is it your favorite?
“She’s Always a Woman to Me” is definitely a favorite of mine to perform. I see it as a declaration of loyalty that promises unconditional love no matter how others outside the relationship may perceive certain behaviors and choices. Sometimes I sing the song in honor of my mother, who, in her own independent strength, “Never gives in” and “Never gives out,” as the song goes. Other times, I sing it about the craft of theatre, which can “Lead you to love” and “Take you or leave you.”
Billy Joel has a special connection to New York City. In your mind, how is Billy Joel’s relationship with Manhattan manifested in his music?
Billy Joel’s music captures an attitude that is so characteristically Manhattan. His point of view is often sarcastic but still deeply connected, passionate, and hopeful. His lyrics are bold and forward. His music celebrates such a diverse array of styles that cover many eras. All of this blended together reminds me of the vibrant, challenging, and lively tapestry of Manhattan.
You were born in Barcelona and were raised in Coral Springs, FL. How did your time in each of these places inspire your love for the performing arts?
Barcelona imprinted me with the pulse of a vibrant city as a child, which I never forgot. There’s still no city I’ve been to that has Barcelona’s unique blend of arts, architecture, food, music, beach, and city culture.
Suburban life in Coral Springs went at a much different pace, and I always craved a return to the big city life. It’s no surprise then that I went to college in Pittsburgh and moved to New York City as soon as I could! However, my community in Florida provided a rich environment for me as a young artist. My high school theatre teacher at J.P. Taravella High School put together a curriculum that exposed us to theatre classics and contemporary works equally. She also brought in professional artists to foster our talents. It was the perfect foundation for a career in the arts.
What do you most enjoy about performing in New York State of Mind?
I spent the last year performing Hairspray in a 1400-seat theatre, so it’s been a true gift to explore a more intimate performance setting. In FST’s Court Cabaret, I often feel like I’m in my living room singing to my loved ones and closest friends. Seeing the audience sing along to every word of “Piano Man” or hold their loved one’s hand when my castmate, Michael, sings “Just The Way You Are” makes us all feel more connected to each other and brings these songs to life in a very visceral way.
Would there be anything that FST audiences would be surprised to know about you?
I speak fluent Spanish. My family moved to Coral Springs, FL, when I was four-years-old. My parents made sure that we continued to speak Spanish at home to retain the language. It’s been a tremendous asset in communicating with others, and another color to use to express my artistry.
Due to audience demand, New York State of Mind – All the Hits of Billy Joel With The Uptown Boys was held over and played through October 16, 2022.