Kevin Massey is currently killing audiences across the US playing the devilishly charming, Monty Navarro in the 1st National Tour of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” I had the pleasure of speaking with the accomplished performer recently as the show began its 6-week run at The Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.
Ivan: Hi Kevin! First off, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. I truly appreciate it.
Kevin: Sure! My pleasure.
Ivan: So how is LA treating you so far?
Kevin: It’s great! We’re happy to be sitting down for little while. We were in Minneapolis the first week of January where it was -17 degrees and we had blizzards that shut down our show for a couple days so we’re very happy in many ways to be in LA. Not even including the wonderful audiences that we’ve been having here.
Ivan: That’s awesome! Have you done anything fun yet?
Kevin: Yeah, I was at the Getty Museum. Actually, my Aunt and Uncle came to visit and so we met up there with my wife who is also in town visiting. We’ve eaten a lot of good food. That’s kind of what we have been focusing on for the first 2 weeks. Awesome food in different places. We’re in a neighborhood near Echo Park called Silver Lake and there’s tons of great places around here. We went to the Griffith Park Observatory. That was really fun. And we went on a beautiful little hike up north past Pasadena. We’re actually trying to figure out what to do on this gloomy day.
Ivan: (Laughs) I know It’s supposed to rain straight for the next week or so.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s crazy. I was hoping to get to the beach with my wife but it may not happen this trip.
Ivan: I do have to mention that I am a big fan of your wife’s (Kara Lindsay) as well.
Kevin: Hahaha. As am I. So we’re in the same boat.
Ivan: Is there one thing that you try to do in each new city you visit?
Kevin: Not one particular thing because every city is different but John Rapson (The D’Ysquith Family) and I are great buddies and we love to explore so Trip Advisor and Yelp have been our friends for this tour. We try to go see the most unique thing in each city but not necessarily the most visited or touristy things. And of course the best food we can find is always on the top of the list.
Ivan: So let’s discuss your show “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” for a little bit. We saw the show at The Ahmanson Theatre on opening night and absolutely loved it!
Kevin: Oh good!
Ivan: You play the anti-hero role quite brilliantly. Just curious how does one prepare to play someone like Monty Navarro?
Kevin: I think the key to playing a true evil character or villain is you have to get yourself into their mindset and believe what they’re doing is right. What’s great about this show and the way it’s written is that the audience pretty much agrees with Monty. If you show that he was kicked to the curb and has absolutely nothing and the way the family treats him…in many ways he has a right to help them along to where they were going anyway and he does it in such a sweet way (laughs). Also what’s great about the direction is that Monty never directly kills anybody. He just sets them up and gives them a little nudge and they kinda kill themselves. I think that helps a lot not having real blood directly on Monty’s hands for the audience to feel for him even at the very end.
Ivan: What’s your favorite musical number from the show?
Kevin: The one I love and it’s very different from the show but it’s a great pinnacle moment for Monty is “Sibella.” Monty’s been manipulated the whole show by everybody especially Sibella and during this song he finally comes into his own and has a sense of who he is and what he wants and enjoys manipulating her a little bit. And that song is literally pushing her around stage exactly where I want her, placing her where I want her, enjoying her how I want her and it’s a beautiful song to sing. Another equally favorite of mine is called the door trio or “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” It’s brilliantly staged and it’s the exact opposite of “Sibella” where now Monty’s barely holding it together with these two women in the room. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s very precise but at the very end it’s worth it because the audience just really eats it up and enjoys it just as much as we do.
Ivan: I agree! It’s definitely one of my favorite numbers from the show too. It was a lot of fun. Speaking of which, have you had any funny mishaps on stage?
Kevin: Well, if you came to the show last night you would have seen many things (laughs). There were so many gremlins. Too many to count! We had an actor miss an entrance where I was supposed to hand over my old coat and get my new coat and he wasn’t there so I had toss it off the stage. Someone left a notebook on stage at the beginning of the show and I wasn’t able to get it off stage until the 3rd scene. A curtain didn’t go down after Sibella’s first number “Don’t You Just Love Me In Pink.” We were holding…holding…holding (laughs). And with our show you can’t really continue if the curtains not working. There’s been a couple hiccups but we’ve only had to stop the show once before but the audience loves that stuff.
Ivan: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Kevin: The show is not a big dance show but it’s deceivingly physical. I’m bending, swaying and falling around everywhere so I really have to stretch a lot more than I thought initially and roll out my legs just like a dancer would even though I’m not a dancer. It’s worth it to warm up my body physically. I get this ginger crystal tea that I drink beforehand too. I also go around and visit people if I can or at least leave my door open and let people come in and visit to talk about anything and nothing. I love this role but one of the things I miss is I don’t have a lot of backstage traffic during the show. I’m on stage the whole time so I don’t get to interact and have little moments backstage during certain parts where you do this one thing or visit the hair room during another part. So I try to work that in before as much as I can because I love the comradery of a company but I pretty much have every moment on stage so I get to be a part of that too.
Ivan: What do you find is the hardest part about tour life?
Kevin: It’s being away from the ones you love. It can be tough after awhile especially when you have a time change difference like when Kara is in New York or my family is in North Carolina and I’m out here. It adds another layer of difficulty trying to get in touch with each other. Luckily, we have cell phones, FaceTime, emails and text that we didn’t have back in the day and it’s still tough but the flip side is the tour takes us around to many cities where you have friends and family where that you don’t see as often and that’s been a real treat. I’ve seen somebody I know in every single city I’ve been to.
Ivan: That’s good. It’s always nice to reconnect with old friends and family members. So tell me what are some of your favorite musicals?
Kevin: Wow. I love “Memphis” not just because I was part of it. The role of Huey was very similar to Monty. He is an interesting, quirky person with a lot of flaws who ends up changing a lot of peoples lives for the better. Sometimes to his own determent but in the end he really brought light into their lives. I love “West Side Story.” It’s a beautifully scored, a wonderful classic story and a show I would love to be a part of someday. “Hamilton” was incredible. I’ll jump on the bandwagon. It’s as good as everybody says it is. So good! “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”, a fantastic play with such good acting, so funny but so dark. It’s so weird I’m usually a squeaky clean guy but I love shows with a little bit of dark humor that makes people uncomfortable but also funny and allows them not to be so uptight about life. Life can be tough sometimes and you can’t just honker down and protect yourself from it. You got to live through it and laugh about it and have forgiveness and that’s what makes life so rich and I love to see that reflected on stage and shows.
Ivan: Right! I always think it’s nice when you leave a thought-provoking show with some new insight. How did you first get your start in the business?
Kevin: Before I went to 8 years of med school, I wanted to do something different and crazy for a year. A buddy of mine, who wanted to be an actor suggested moving to New York with him. I didn’t want to live in a big city, because I’m from a small town in North Carolina nor did I want to hustle in that way but for some reason thought “It’s just a year and it will be an adventure.” When I got to New York I didn’t really know anybody else but I just waited in line and sang my 8 or 16 bars and eventually started getting a little traction and literally overnight on a Friday I got cast in the European tour of “Grease” and left on Monday to join the tour. All of a sudden I had a good job. I was able to save some money. It was really fun. I got to see Europe and thought “whoa, I didn’t know you can make a living at this.” That job eventually led to other ones and I started getting decent work. It’s hard work but it’s a lot of fun and I’ve been really blessed doing what I love. And it’s kinda in a nutshell how I ended up where I am. And of course it’s how I met my wife as well. So I can’t be sad about that.
Ivan: Everything happens for a reason, right?
Kevin: It does!
Ivan: I have one more question for you. Do you have a fun fact about yourself that not many people know about?
Kevin: I’ve become in many ways the last minute “go-to” guy. About 6 years ago, I was sitting at a Chipotle about to take a big bite of my burrito when I get a call from a 15-digit number. I answer it and it’s the Assistant Director from the Broadway Company of “Tarzan” calling from Germany. He asks “what’s your availability these days and how’s your German? They basically said “we’ve been having some injuries in our German Company and might need you to help us out here.” He puts the Resident Director on the phone and has me say this tongue twister in German. I repeat it to him and he’s like “you’ll be fine.” The next thing I know I am flying to Germany and learning the whole show in German in a week and a half. All of a sudden I’m revisiting the show I did 4 years earlier but in a completely new language. It was a crazy, wonderful experience. So the fun fact is I know all of Disney’s “Tarzan” aus deutsch!
Ivan: That’s amazing! Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.
Kevin: It was great talking to you. It’s been a fun time.
You can catch Kevin Massey in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” at The Ahmanson Theatre now thru May 1, 2016. Tickets are available by calling 213-972-4400 or online at http://www.centertheatregroup.org, or by visiting the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre. Ticket prices start at $25. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.