Suffolk Alumnus to Make His Broadway Debut

Nael Nacer joins the Broadway cast of ‘Prayer for the French Republic’ this December

It’s the classic Broadway story: The lead is suddenly unavailable and the understudy must go on—without ever having rehearsed. A version of that is exactly what happened for Nael Nacer, BA ’06, who is poised to make his Broadway debut in the award-winning drama Prayer for the French Republic.

Nacer says his success proves there isn’t just one way to make it to Broadway. His theater career, which began at Suffolk, has built slowly but steadily, he says, “20 years of little things here and there that all sort of came together at the moment that I really needed them to.”

A regular fixture on the Boston stage, Nacer recently played Macduff in Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s (CSC) summer production of Macbeth on the Boston Common. During the pandemic, he created and directed an online play, To Gather Apart, with a large cast and crew of Suffolk students, which went on to win honors at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.

Nael Nacer in the center performing in Macbeth with two other actors
Nacer appeared in this summer's production of 'Macbeth' with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. (photo: Nile Scott Studios)

When preparation meets opportunity

This fall, when a scheduled project fell through, he accepted an understudy role in the Huntington Theatre’s production of Prayer for the French Republic. Written by playwright Joshua Harmon and staged in 2022 by the Manhattan Theatre Club, the play opened off-Broadway and went on to win the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. The 2023 Huntington production served as a prelude to a planned Broadway opening.

For Nacer, an understudy role that initially looked like a back-up plan became the spark that propelled his career to a new level. 

One morning during the show’s previews he received a call: The actor he was understudying was unavailable and Nacer would have to go on—that night. 

“I hadn’t had a rehearsal yet, but luckily I’d been learning my lines,” he recalls. “A couple of nights after my first show, the play opened and Joshua Harmon was there.” Harmon, who liked what he saw, then met with the New York casting directors and recommended Nacer for the role of Charles in the Broadway production. Another point in Nacer’s favor: He had previously worked with the production’s New York director, Tony Award–winner David Cromer.

The following week he booked the gig.

“It’s like one of those things where there’s so much luck involved,“ he marvels, “but also so many little connections that I can go back and point to.”

Nael Nacer sits on a bench onstage during a performance of The Orchard
Nacer performing in the Arlekin Players' production of 'The Orchard.' (photo: Pavel Antonov)

Finding his calling at Suffolk

Those little connections began at Suffolk when Nacer first met Theatre Professor Wes Savick: “He’s really the reason that I fell in love with theater.”

“I knew right away that he was a serious actor,” says Savick. “But in my experience it’s impossible to know with certainty that theatre is someone’s calling—that’s kind of an act of faith, against all odds.

How do you keep a candle flame lit in a hurricane? Nael has accomplished this, and he has done this long before his Broadway debut. He has a calling and has been steadfast in heeding it.”

Nacer sees a direct correlation between his recent success and his Suffolk experience. “Wes has been an important person in my life since I was a freshman at Suffolk,” he says. “And Suffolk has been important in my life since that time. It feels like it just all led back to being a Suffolk student. Every little thing, every little incremental bit of progress has a foundation at Suffolk.” 

Nael Nacer kneels onstage during The Tempest
On stage during the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's 'The Tempest.' (photo: Nile Scott Studios)

A legacy of persecution and survival: One family’s story

Prayer for the French Republic explores the persistence of antisemitism through the eyes of a French Jewish family spanning five generations, from 1944 to 2017. Nacer’s character, Charles, is a father whose child is assaulted because he was wearing a yarmulke. 

Nacer, a French citizen, adds, “I think it makes the question, ‘Where are Jews safe?’ an even more poignant one, a scarier one, and one that’s harder to answer. But I think because it’s harder to answer, it’s a really important one. So I think in some ways, it only gains relevance, sadly.”

Juxtaposed to the intense emotion and serious nature of the plot, Prayer for the French Republic incorporates many sharp, family-inspired comic moments. Says Nacer, “It’s a really beautiful play.”

For now, Nacer is preparing for the role and not thinking too much about what will come next. What has always been paramount to him, he says, is the opportunity to work with different people and to do that work with both discipline and passion: “And then the rest happens or it doesn’t.”

“I keep telling myself, ‘Oh, I should do this’ or ‘I should do that.’ But life took me there [to Broadway]. There’s not one path, and I think that’s useful for students to remember.”

About the production

The Broadway premiere of Joshua Harmon's Prayer for the French Republic will begin previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre December 19 ahead of a January 9, 2024 opening. It runs until February 4. More information can be found at

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