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INTERVIEW: Kevin Massey of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder opens Tuesday at the State Theatre. The Twin Cities Arts Reader’s Basil Considine chatted up Kevin Massey, who plays the charming Monty Navarro in his quest to become the heir to the D’Ysquith family fortune.

Are you sure that you want to come out this way in January? Have you been to Minneapolis before?

I’ve worked in Milwaukee and Toronto in the winter before; I love Minneapolis and we’re looking forward to coming out.! I [also] worked at the Guthrie Theater before – that’s where I met my wife. 

Very nice. They’re going to ask you to remember that when they come soliciting you for donations, since they’re responsible for your marital bliss and your entire family.

Perhaps, yes – it’s been a big part of it. We were out there in the summer; it was beautiful and the lakes are fantastic…I just had a great time there. 

Were you there before they moved to their bright blue building on the banks of the Mississippi?

Not, it was 2008, so we were in the new building, which was really really wonderful…right on the water, with all these different places that you can come and hang out in. It’s very European – theater as a public space.

Not like New York City theaters at all.

Where is home base for you when you’re not on tour?

New York City. It’s where you need to be if you’re doing this [touring] for a living. 

What made you decide to make the big leap to New York City in the first place? Were there stops in the meeting?

Before the Guthrie, I was out in college, preparing to be a doctor – I was a premed [student]. A friend convinced me to move to New York for a year before I went to med school for the rest of my life. I always wanted to do something crazy and that’s what got me hooked on this – I had no idea [beforehand that] you could actually make a living at playing on stage and singing, so it’s been a wonderful life.

It was about seven years into my career that I came out [to Minneapolis for] the Guthrie. I was in New York before I came out to Minneapolis, but you always have to keep coming back to New York to get hired outside to work everywhere else around the world. And every now and then you get lucky and you get to work at home.

Did you do the Guthrie’s New York audition?

Yes, the show was The Little House on the Prairie, the musical that we premiered at the Guthrie. All the additions were held in New York for the leads – it was wonderful, with New York actors mixed with Minneapolis [area] actresses and actors. You have a great theater scene [in Minneapolis]  I’m excited to see a lot of them that are still there.

I just ran an interview with Caroline Innerbichler, who played one of the younger girls in that show.

Yes! I hear she’s doing very well; I heard about her Little Mermaid [performance at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres].

Back to you. You met your wife at the Guthrie, then you managed to convince her to give up the lakes, elbow room, and personal space to move to New York? 

Actually, she already lived in New York already as well. It’s funny – you go out and meet some your best friends in Utah and other random places and then you realize you both live in the same city. Luckily, I didn’t have to convince her then – we were both temporarily there and realized that it wasn’t just the show biz [that attracted us]. 

I was ready to meet someone else that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. We were friends during our run [at the Guthrie], but I could tell she had something that I wanted to be a part of and luckily it all worked out.

Do both of you do tours, and is so, what are the chances of being home at the same time?

We do. Luckily we did tour with Little House on the Prairie together [next], so we were able to work together for a year. We’ve been lucky enough to have the Broadway shows at the same time a couple times now, sowe’ve been able to live and work together.

Last year, she was on tour with Wicked… I was at home, so I come out to visit her when I could; then she came to do the show in New York, so we had some overlap with A Gentleman’s Guide for about six [or] seven months. And now I’m out on the road while she’s still in Wicked.

The hardest thing is actually the time change. Three hours’ time difference out in San Francisco [on tour was] the toughest because when you have a 2-show day, those three hours just make you mis each other on every single break. I had to literally call her during intermission, just to catch her for a couple minutes.

How did you first became involved with A Gentleman’s Guide?

I had earlier been cast in the New York production – I’d understudied the role there and was able to be with them for 6-7 months. After 3 months or so, they [the casting directors] knew that they were going to put out a tour and they came to the company and said, “If anybody’s interested in seeing the country, let us know so we can put your name on the list.”

I thought, well, “If I get the role – to play Monty – it might be worth it.” So I said, “Yeah, I’d be interested in being considered. And I hadn’t gone on as Monty yet, so they hadn’t seen me do it, and I had to go through the audition process like everyone else. Luckily, I knew the role pretty well by that point.

Let me see if I can summarize that correctly: They came and asked if anyone was interested in taking part in this organized murder thing and you said, “Sign me up for serial killing”?

[Laughs] Of course. It’s an incredible role…a lot of work. What I like about him is that he’s a serial killer but he’s [also] so charming and lovable and people are rooting for him… I can definitely bring my family to it.

Is there a particular number or scene or monologue in the show that you particularly look forward to?

The one that the audience always has so much fun with is what we call the Door Trio [“I’ve Decided to Marry You”]. Monty is between these two doors slamming….

The one selected for the Tonys.

Yes. It’s so well crafted, with all the moments and shifts it just flies by, and you really have to see it a couple of times to get everything. I also love singing “Isabella” – it’s really sexy and so luscious. I get to move [around the stage] and Monty finally gets to manipulate a woman after spending the whole show being manipulated by women.

What would you tell someone about A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder?

I always tell people that you have to come and see it at the beginning of the week – it’s so good, so witty… We were in Durham, NC, and people told us that they came back to see it again, because they loved it so much.

I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s nice to be a part of such a great work… It won four Tony’s…for Direction, for Best Musical, as well as Best Book – I mean, when you win those three, you can’t go wrong – you know it’s high quality stuff! 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder opens at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on Tuesday, 1/4.

Twin Cities Arts Reader