On the surface, this could be a story of “all or nothing.” Fortunately, when you sit down with Memphis Ensemble/”Huey” understudy, Kevin Massey, you realize that there are so many colors between here and there, between now and then, between on and off that the story is deep and compelling and very very sweet. And what a better time to discover that than this week when Kevin is on as “Huey” for the vacationing, Adam Pascal.
So what am I talking about, this “all or nothing” concept? Massey’s track in the show is rather unique in the MEMPHIS ensemble. Because that track is the always filled by the onstage “Huey” cover, it was created in such a way that it is easy to cover what he does when he goes on for “Huey.” From the house, the role is small but with memorable moments: the crotch thrusting in the Collins scene, the WSAL radio station owner, and in the attack scene in the act one finale. So for the majority of this interview, we focused on what it is like to be in the “Huey” spotlight.
For someone who is not naturally as wild or outgoing as “Huey,” playing the role has helped Massey get in touch with his goofier side, realizing he does have more of a playful and silly nature then he thought.
“I’m not really an outspoken person who would shake things up like “Huey” does. But I am really embracing my goofy side. I think that is kind of what I have really loved about “Huey.” What’s not totally me is that he says whatever is on his mind, he doesn’t filter, and I filter a lot. I’m learning to do that less.”
I ask him what’s happening in his life now that is allowing him to drop the filter.
“Being in a relationship with someone for a long time and moving forward with that. I’ve noticed that when I feel like I am totally myself, I am enjoying life more, the people around me are enjoying life more. But when I am in my head, it makes others feel awkward as well.”
This relationship is with Kara Lindsay, currently starring opposite Jeremy Jordan in NEWSIES. Kara helped spearheaded a group of her castmates to come to the show this past Tuesday night to watch him go on in the lead role.
Though Kara “still gets nervous” while watching him perform the ginormous role, Massey is turning out a fantastical performance as “Huey”; it’s wide-eyed and honest with great vocals. And then there’s the “unexpected’ six pack when “Huey” comes out in Act 2. Someone asked me at the back of the house Tuesday “How long has he had those abs?” I replied, “Since always!” [I don't know how I knew that, I guess I became aware of them early on in his run with MEMPHIS. In fact, I think James Iglehart was the first one to tell me how "ripped" Kevin was but that's neither here nor there.]
For anyone following Twitter this week, you’ve see the new hashtag #CrazyLegsMassey which is totally earned by him in the “Make Me Stronger” number. For someone who doesn’t consider himself a dancer, Massey’s approach to Huey is very athletic and confident in his body; a loose and free movement vocabulary Massey probably picked up during his run in TARZAN where he too understudied the leading role. “Tarzan was really valuable to me,” he says.”I had to move in a totally different way.”
Will it be hard to go back to your regular track after playing “Huey” this week? I ask.
“No, it is what it is.” Massey says. “It would be really hard if I didn’t enjoy the cast members in the show as much as I do and I can find joy in that.”
And while Massey is grateful for the opportunity, being an understudy isn’t the ultimate goal. For many actors like Massey, taking an understudy role is usually a strategic move. One that allows the industry to start seeing you as someone who is capable of thriving in the leading player’s shoes. But for now, he is very happy to be working in New York and not on the road so can be near his self described “lady love”, Kara.
“I’m happy to be in the same city as Kara. I’m happy to be working in a great show”.
When asked if he had any dream roles he’d like to play, the answer comes quickly. “Tony, in WEST SIDE STORY.” Attention all you producers and casting directors looking to do a revival of WEST SIDE: We’ve got your “Tony” right here.
Something’s coming Kevin, Something Good.
For more pictures of the NEWSIES visit to MEMPHIS, check out Playbill.com
BEHIND THE TITLE QUESTIONS with Kevin Massey
When did you make your Memphis debut?
I believe it was February 22, 2011
What is your favorite phrase to sing in the show (as Huey and in your ensemble role)?
as Huey: “There’s a town where I call home, where all the streets are paved with soul”..I love that “paved with soul”
as ensemble: “We love when it hops, We love when it bops” I like the harmony there.
Who is the biggest character in the dressing room?
Ensemble: Justin [Patterson: "Buck Wiley"]…though there are so many characters…he’s probably the “loudest”. It’s a good thing. We feed off each other.
Who are you still so excited you’ve gotten to meet because of being in MEMPHIS?
Joe Biden and his wife. It was such a hullabaloo with secret service everywhere, and that made it exciting. Of course, Oprah was great too, and I got in a tabloid with her
What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off?
Spend time with my love, Kara. Also, to be out in the sun and eat with friends.
First Broadway Show you saw:
I think it was THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. I don’t remember which version. In fact, all I remember was them singing “We seek him here, We seek him there….” The first performance that truly inspired me was seeing Heather Headley in AIDA. I didn’t know anything about her at the time, but I did when I went back home and looked her up!
What is your favorite piece of MEMPHIS swag?
The baby onesie that says “Hockadoo” and the on the backside says “Is that Dirty?”
What’s your subway line?
E train has been the most useful to me, though I can take F/R/M/7
Not ready for that kind of commitment yet, though Kara is working on me
Current Restaurant delivery obsession:
I actually don’t get delivery that much, but if I did, it would be Schnippers
Current Beverage Obsession:
Protein buzz with blueberries, almond milk, and extra shot of hemp protein at Juice Generation. SO good!
What are you OCD about?
Checking my stocks….
Last movie you saw or “Netflixed”?
The Descendants, and I gotta say….I feel my brain descended into the land of boredom very quickly.
iPhone or Blackberry?
DROID!!!!…but will get iPhone soon I think
What’s one thing that fans would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a gluten-free former pre-med student who lived in Taiwan for a summer before taking a week long bike ride from the Berkshires of Massachusetts to Provincetown with my Dad. That’s just a snippet
Carolyn works as an Associate Producer at Junkyard Dog Productions- Producers of MEMPHIS. Carolyn will actually be enjoying a gluten-free cupcake today as a sort of homage to Kevin Massey from The Little Cakes, gluten-free bakery. www.thelittlecakesnyc.com