Virtuoso grad shares theatre with ukulele


Courtesy Grace Diaz-Herrera

Narciso Lobo has been playing the ukelele for nine years and has drawn in viewers and subscribers for his songs on YouTube and at ukelele festivals.


Columbia has always been a place where students can be themselves and express their art freely, said alumnus Narciso Lobo, a singer/songwriter, ukulele player, actor and 1995 graduate with a bachelor’s in theatre.

The Chicago-raised alum hits the stage again after a long haitus in Sideshow Theatre Company’s “No More Sad Things” at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., starting Nov. 15, in which he acts as both the narrator and the musical director. 

Lobo has many accomplishments under his belt since attending Columbia. He released a full-length album called Kuya along with his ukulele EP, Little Brother, which is dedicated to his brother, both released March 21.

Lobo describes his musical style as Americana and said when he started making music he wanted to sound like Sam Cooke. 

“What comes out is a country thing without the twang,” he said about his voice. “I’ve learned not to argue with the muse.”

Lobo studied theatre in college but is now best known for his ukulele music. He fell in love with the instrument instantly after hearing it at Old Town School of Folk Music in 2006. 

The ukulele led Lobo to YouTube, where he posted his original song “Thank You For Leaving Me” in 2007. He said the song was featured on YouTube’s front page the next day. It was the first ukulele song featured on YouTube’s U.S. site, and has garnered more than 1.3 million views since. 

“It was absolutely surreal. I kind of freaked out,” Lobo said. “I took a look back at how my musical life had led me to that point.”

Lobo said he had been in bands before, including one at Columbia. After his YouTube success, he devoted his time to music and stopped acting.

“It’s obvious this is where the universe wants me to be,” he said.

Fast forward seven years, and Lobo is back in Sideshow’s “No More Sad Things,” written by Hansol Jung and directed by Elly Green. Lobo is combining his music and acting passion in his role as Guidebook, the narrator and musical director. 

The show is about an unlikely connection between a girl and a boy who meet on vacation in Maui, Hawaii. Lobo said returning to theater after a long break was a welcome change.

“I was nervous and excited,” Lobo said. “But after a couple of days [it was like] I put on my old pair of comfortable shoes, and [it was] smooth sailing.”

Katy Collins, artistic associate for Sideshow, plays Jessiee in the play and said she loves being part of the show and working with Lobo. She added it was exciting to watch Lobo play and see how he incorporates his musical talents into the show because she also plays the ukulele.

“There is a lot to explore and nonliteral stuff in the text,” Collins said. “He does a great job bringing the ideas to the table.”

Collins said there are only three characters on stage during the show—she, Lobo and George Infantado, who plays the boy Kahekili—creating an intimate relationship with all the actors and allowing them to be open and forthcoming about the show’s creative process. Lobo said “No More Sad Things” was the right show to get him to get back into theatre because his character plays the ukulele.

Elly Green, director of “No More Sad Things” said the show is a poetic romantic comedy. She feels the Guidebook role fits Lobo perfectly, which rarely happens, she added.

“I am so thrilled we found him,” Green said. “He is our guide for the play.”

Green said that Lobo brings confidence and energy to the show. 

“We can give over the ownership of [music] to [Lobo],” Green said.

Lobo is proud of his time at Columbia and will carry with him what he has learned until the end of his days, he said.

“I love the fact that Columbia is weird,” Lobo said. “It was okay to be yourself—[that’s] the biggest lesson Columbia taught me.”

“No More Sad Things” is scheduled to run Nov. 15 to Dec. 20 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Purchase tickets at