He’s a D’Ysquith! He’s a D-apostrophe Y-squith! And he’s determined to take his rightful place in Highurst Castle and inherit the fortune that belongs to him. If only there weren’t so many pesky relatives in his way! Journey onward down the path of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder in a TheatreBloom exclusive interview with master player Kevin Massey, undertaking the role of Monty Navarro, and we find out just how to plot murder most fabulously foul and engage in the high class art of love.
Thank you for giving us a bit of your time, Kevin! If you could give us a quick introduction of who you are, what you’re doing on the tour, and maybe some recent favorite credits, we’ll get started!
Kevin Massey: Sure, my pleasure! My name is Kevin Massey and I’m excited to be a part of this tour of Gentleman’s Guide as it prepares to come to Broadway— Baltimore! I meant to say Baltimore, but it feels like Broadway! I was able to do the show on Broadway too so it’s a real treat to be able to bring this show in. It’s just as high quality as it was on Broadway so I think it’s going to be a real treat coming into Baltimore. I feel like this is definitely one of the highlights of my career. I was able to be in Tarzan on Broadway, and in Memphis, those were a couple of my last Broadway credits. I’ve been a part of some very exciting shows and this definitely ranks right up there at the top.
When were you in Gentleman’s Guide on Broadway?
Kevin: I was in it for about seven months before I started with the tour. It was about a year into their run, maybe a little over a year. It was most of the original Broadway cast, though there were a couple of people who had left by that point. I understudied the role of Monty in New York and now I get to play that role on tour.
How are you and Monty Navarro similar and how are you two different?
Kevin: Oh my gosh! We’re exactly the same! No, I’m just kidding. I do think we’re similar in that I used to be— and I think I still am a little bit— but I was kind of shy and I have this innocence about me. I think it’s from where I grew up in Western North Carolina, I just had these wide-eyed views of the world, which I’m glad I still have. I think that’s how Monty starts off. But as life, opportunities, and greed and all these other things happen along the way, he gets a little twisted. He matures into this confident but slightly dark, twisted older man. While life has certainly brought seasoning to my experiences, I’d like to hope that I’m not quite as twisted as Monty gets.
Yes, I’m hoping you haven’t offed any of your relatives.
Kevin: Not that I know of. I think that we’re good there.
What is it about A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder that excited you so much to want to go and hope to become a part of it?
Kevin: It’s an incredible show. I think that’s evident by the four Tony Awards that we won, including Best New Musical. It’s so well written. It’s so witty. It’s so new even though it feels like a classic musical theatre piece. It’s fresh. You have to pay attention, it’s not a comedy where you just sit back. You’re leaning forward wondering what crazy thing is going to happen next and that’s where the comedy is. Monty is one of those roles that comes around only a few times in your career. It really fits me well, I feel like I’m really driving the story and the character is such an integral part of the show. I get to sing beautiful, beautiful songs. New songs aren’t written like that very often so it really is a joy to get to do that.
And I’m playing opposite a guy who has become one of my best friends. We don’t know each other before we started, but we’ve become dear friends and he’s so fun and he’s so good in the role too. It’s great when you have a co-star who you have such synergy with and I think that can only help the show. That certainly is why we’ve both decided to stay on for the whole tour. I think it’s a testament to our relationship there but also to how good the show really is that we both wanted to see this through. It’s such a treat and such an honor to be able to be a part of.
You were talking about your partner— not so much in crime, I suppose, but of crime? Your partnered victim? Which is your favorite D’Ysquith relative that John Rapson (playing the D’Ysquith family) plays over the course of the evening?
Kevin: Favorite meaning the one I hate the most or the one I enjoy killing the most? There are a couple. You know, not all of them are totally awful. Some of them are awful in different ways and some of them are definitely higher on that scale than others. There’s a guy named Henry and he’s a sweet fellow. He loves his bees. He takes quite a liking to Monty. He’s one of the D’Ysquiths that I do enjoy a lot. We have one of the longer scenes so you get to know him a little more. We have a song together and I think that probably helps there. It’s slightly complicated because he does have a sister that I end up getting interested in. But it’s probably one of the deaths— one of the murders I should say— that Monty is a little bit more conflicted about. Henry is a sweet chap and he doesn’t want to hurt this new girl that he’s just met. But he does it anyway because it’s the right thing.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge taking on a role of this capacity on a tour that’s gone on this long for a show of this magnitude?
Kevin: Hmm. Well, it’s a lot of work. I have to make sure that I’m keeping my body and voice in as good a shape as possible to be able to do this eight times a week for this long. Certainly doing it in just one place in New York can wear on you but moving around to different places and having to adjust to different temperatures and different theatres so quickly, it adds another little strain to it. But I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges, just keeping up the stamina. Luckily, I really enjoy it so very, very rarely feels like work. Sometimes you come in and you’re a little bit more tired than other nights, but there are always huge chunks of the show that get me right back in it. It gives you that “Oh yeah, this is why I love it” feel.
I think the other challenge for the show in general is that it’s like a clock. It ticks along at a certain pace and things need to happen at exactly the right moment. When you’re in a long show, sometimes things change along the way. So I think the challenge for us then becomes to keep that focus and to keep that clock as tight as possible because it’s a very precise show. For some jokes to work you have to be really precise, the focus has to change and the lights have to change right on cue. But luckily our company is up to the task. They’ve been fantastic and the show is just as good if not better than when we started. It’s a testament to the work ethic of everybody involved.
Do you have a favorite song of moment that you’re a part of that really speaks to you in the show?
Kevin: I really enjoy singing “Sibella” and it’s a song that I don’t think a lot of people remember because it’s not one of the big comedy numbers. It’s in the second act and it’s this really sexy song that he sings to this girl that he’s always been wrapped around her finger and now he’ finally gained this confidence and the tables have turned; he now has her wrapped around his finger. I just enjoy Monty owning himself and owning what he wants and enjoying this thing that he’s won in a way. I wouldn’t say it’s too twisted, it’s a real moment for him. I think he probably is enjoying power a little bit in that moment but I think mostly he’s enjoying confidence. As I’ve grown older and I’ve gained more confidence, it’s really nice as a shy genteel person to feel like you own something, that you have a purpose and a reason; you want something? You have the confidence to go after it and get it. It’s a very empowering feeling.
And then right after that is one of the best numbers in the show, which is “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” That’s the door trio where there’s person slamming and door slamming and I’m leaning all over the place and it’s just a hoot. So it’s awesome for me to have those two awesome moments right on top of each other right there. It’s definitely one of the more memorable moments of the show.
If you had to ‘off’ one of your relatives, what would be your preferred method?
Kevin: Oh…I really do love my family dearly. And I have a huge family so I can’t imagine even thinking about doing that. But if I had to and it was this time of year? Perhaps we would go bunting on the river and I would maybe accidentally take a hard left when I should have taken a right, and then that way it would be peaceful for them and it wouldn’t be too painful and they could be buried at sea.
Do you have a moment in the show that defines the show for you, Kevin? And then perhaps for Monty or perhaps they are one in the same?
Kevin: In terms of what it’s going to be? Hmm. Well there is a moment for me— both as Monty and as Kevin— where I’ve sung my last challenging thing and then I literally go lay on the bed in jail. I think a lot of times the first kind of “a-ha!” moment where we’ve told the audience, “This is the ride you are going to be on”, is that first death— that first murder— that we encounter. Up ‘til then we’re kind of laying some groundwork in terms of the story and the backstory with Monty. That’s the first time that the audience sees what Monty is capable of. Once he’s got this idea and he follows through with it and he’s even surprised that he does— and these deaths aren’t going to be gruesome, awful deaths, they’re going to be really fun, creative, over-the-top deaths— that’s when they audience is clued in and suddenly can’t wait to see what Monty’s going to do next. I think they get excited about the next one and the next one from that moment on.
What are you hoping that audiences are going to take away from spending an evening out at A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder?
Kevin: I hope that they take away an awesome evening, one of the best nights they’ve had in the theatre where they just laughed and let it go and didn’t think about everything else that’s bothering them. We’re just trying to give them a night of levity, and sometimes that is needed, maybe especially now. What we don’t want them to take, of course, is any sort of ideas as to how to carry out anything that’s done in the show. Disclaimer: do not try this at home!
What would you say that this experience has taught you about yourself?
Kevin: I think in terms of career its’ given me the confidence that “yes, I’m supposed to be doing this.” I thought I was supposed to be a doctor most of my life. These sorts of roles and opportunities keep reminding me that “yes, Kevin, this is where you’re supposed to be right now. You are able to create this great work at this level and you are supposed to be here to meet these certain people in the cast and that you’re meeting on tour.” All of these things are really very encouraging. I’ve always felt a real sense of purpose. Now it seems like my purpose, which I believe are the people that I meet, this business this career is the conduit for that and I’m meeting so many more people doing this than I ever would as a doctor. That’s really encouraging.
Also I’m married. My wife is at home, actually she just flew back into the bubble again. (Kara Lindsay playing Glinda in Wicked at The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway.) That’s an awesome thing, of course it’s wonderful that we’re both employed. It does make it a little more difficult to come out and see each other. That’s been one of the only downsides of this tour, I haven’t been able to see her or be with her as much as I’d like. Luckily, she understands it. We’ve both supported each other in things throughout our career and we make it work. She was on tour with Wicked for a while, so I went out and visited her a lot. She’s come out and visited me. We have breaks every once in a while, and we get to spend some time at home together. It’s been a challenge, but in a way it’s really great because when she comes out to visit it’s like we’re on vacation in a way in a new city. There’s been some fantastic cities that’s we’ve visited. She won’t be able to come down to Baltimore, unfortunately, but I’m looking forward to being there. I had a buddy who lived there for a while so I got to know the city a little bit.
Why do you want people to come and see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder?
Kevin: I want them to see a real gem of theatre. If they choose to come, they’re going to have taken a risk because for a lot of people it’s going to be, “I don’t know what it’s about, I don’t know anybody in it, it’s not based on a movie…” but they’re going to come and see it and say, “Oh my gosh! I’m so glad I went because I would have regretted missing it.” People tell us all over the country that it’s one of the best nights they’ve had in the theatre. This is coming from the crew who works backstage and the ushers who have seen all the shows in that season or for however long the theatre’s been open, they’re all saying it too. It consistently lands on the top of their lists. This is what is great about tours. We’re able to take these Tony-winning awesome shows all around the country to places where people who aren’t able to come to New York, they can see what incredible theatre is. This is their opportunity for that and I encourage them not to miss it. They are not going to be disappointed. My advice is come early in the run because if you can, you’re going to want to see it again. It’s very fast, there’s a lot of things happening, and you will thoroughly enjoy it the first time. But you’re probably going to want to see it a second time.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder plays through January 1, 2017 at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center— 12 N. Eutaw Street in the Bromo Seltzer Arts District of Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 752-7444 or purchase them online.