"I'm being watched all the time," Spangler said. "When you're on stage, no matter how small your role is, somebody in the audience could be watching you at any given moment, so you can't ever relax."
While many would crumble under the pressure, Spangler thrives on it. It's safe to say the Los Altos native seeks it out, from his work on reality television to roles in a number of productions on and off Broadway, culminating in his recent debut as Prince Charming in the Tony Award-winning adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella" currently on Broadway.
Spangler has felt at home on stage since he was a munchkin playing a Munchkin. When he was 5, his mother signed him up for a Los Altos Youth Theatre production of the Wizard of Oz, marking his theater debut as one of the story's famous small-statured characters.
"When I was growing up, doing shows was my after-school activity," Spangler recalled. "Instead of sports, my mom would drive me to wherever I was doing a play or musical."
Spangler, whose family owns a chain of mortuaries on the Peninsula, moved to New York to attend New York University, where he received a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater. His first major role was the character of Matt in an off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks."
When the show ended in 2006, Spangler directed his energy in a very different direction. Nick and his sister Starr were cast in the 2008-09 season of "The Amazing Race," a globe-trotting reality show, and Spangler immediately began preparing by exercising and studying maps. Spangler found that the skills he developed for acting were very similar to those required of the television show.
"In order to compete in a race around the world, you have to be very outgoing and ready to confront any problem that comes at you, which I think is very similar to being onstage," Spangler said. Twenty-three days and more than 40,000 miles later, Nick and Starr crossed the finish line in Portland, Ore., in first place.
Spangler attributes their million-dollar victory to his family's "competitive spirit," which motivated the pair to constantly be aware of their surroundings and always "keep a guard up." Their excitement in winning, however, was tempered by the sensation of total relief.
"Once my sister and I finally had a moment without microphones and cameras on and other contestants around, I looked at her and I said, 'It's awesome that we won, I'm really happy with how this all turned out, but I'm so glad that it's over.'"
Life after "The Amazing Race" continued as usual for Spangler, who now lives in New York City with his wife and their dog. After rejoining the revival cast of "The Fantasticks," Spangler then performed in the Broadway production of "The Book of Mormon" before landing a part in "Cinderella" in the ensemble and as the understudy for Prince Charming.
Spangler received a three-week notice that he would be performing the role when the original lead went on a scheduled vacation on June 22. However, a week before, Spangler's stage manager called and informed him that the other actor was sick, and that Spangler would need to perform in two hours.
"I had never performed it, never rehearsed it with the full company, never rehearsed with the actress who played Cinderella, never waltzed with her," Spangler recalled, still seemingly in disbelief.
Spangler barely had enough time to rehearse the intense, 10-minute waltz and practice a few costume changes before it was time to go on. Despite the immense pressure, the show was a success — or at least Spangler thinks it was. "The parts that I do remember seem really good," Spangler joked.
The next week, Spangler performed the part two more times as scheduled, this time fully prepared and with his whole family there to support him. "Because I had already done it once under such crazy circumstances ... I felt really comfortable on stage. I'm ready for the next time I get to do it."
Info: Nick Spangler is on Twitter at @Nick_Spangler. For more about "Cinderella," go to cinderellaonbroadway.com.