(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reel Thoughts Interview: Wickedly Talented

To look at Kyle Dean Massey’s resume, you, like him, might marvel at how in 2011, he played “a dead teenager, a Winkie Prince and a tap-dancing cowboy. Now let’s start all over.” Massey is a much sought-after actor who starred as the lead singer in Altar Boyz, as the “dead son” in Next to Normal and then as an aspiring country music singing cowboy whose main rivals were drag sensation Varla Jean Merman and hilarious out comedian Leslie Jordan. The show’s title Lucky Guy didn’t prove prophetic as the show closed quickly on Broadway. The good news is that it is bringing Massey back to Arizona as Fiyero, the gorgeous “Winkie Prince” who falls for the not-so-popular Elphaba in Wicked.

I spoke with Massey,  the handsome star and strong anti-LGBT bullying advocate, while he was finishing a long stop in Los Angeles.  “It’s always different,” Massey explained, about how coming back to the show on tour compares to doing Wicked on Broadway. “The chance to get to do the show in different cities has an effect on it as well. You learn that people in different cities are going to react differently, and that makes it exciting.”

Massey came out with a moving “It Gets Better” video because the Arkansas-born actor wanted kids to know that he came from the same background and now he’s on Broadway. “It’s a disservice to the younger generation not to speak up. What motivated me to make mine was to make it for young gay theater kids.”

Having played the lead of Altar Boyz and now the romantic lead in every tween girl’s favorite musical Wicked has made Massey a teen idol. I asked him which show had the bigger groupies, and he responded that the “Altarholics” were more interested in the performers, while Wicked’s fans are more focused on the show itself. “People get very nervous at the stage door. They’ll ask to take a picture and you can literally see them shaking. That’s the great thing about theater, you can wait by the stage door and meet whoever you want, right after you’ve seen them on stage.”

Asked for the reason for Wicked’s popularity in the LGBT community, Massey replied, “Not to stereotype, but it’s based on The Wizard of Oz. What little gay boy wasn’t obsessed with that movie... I mean, come on,” he said laughing. "The music is very accessible and it’s just spectacular. It just hits on every level. Gay audience, straight audience, there’s something in there for everyone.”

“People identify very closely with one or the other girls, or even my character, who’s changed for the better. It’s just about allowing yourself to be different and how “different can be good” and how you have to look past some things in order to figure out what you think is best or good, or right or wrong.”

“Fiyero is a Winkie prince, and he’s always compared to JFK Jr. He’s royalty and he’s kind of a playboy. Everyone knows who he is, like the male version of a Kardashian. He’s just famous for being famous. He hasn’t done anything and isn’t motivated, he’s always had the means to make people do what he wants. He meets Elphaba and he is so intrigued that he doesn’t “work” on her, that his tricks don’t work on her, and so consequently, he listens to her and learns from her and by the end, he realizes that he wants more than just getting everything he wants, he wants to do good.”

“That show was certainly not smooth sailing,” Massey admitted about Lucky Guy, where Varla Jean Merman played a conniving country star and Leslie Jordan was her partner. “But Jeffrey (Roberson, Varla Jean's alter ego) and Leslie were serious pros. They are both so talented and they brought so much to the table. Leslie was constantly telling stories and I was thinking “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got to write a book!” I got to have a lot of fun scenes with Varla. She tried to seduce me, it was just campy and over-the-top and we got to have a good time.”

Xanadu, starring Cheyenne Jackson, was another highlight for Massey, who played a roller-skating muse. “That show was so fun, it was really like the little show that could. No one thought the show was going to run, and here we were getting Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations and appearing on all the morning shows. I don’t think that I’ve had more fun on a show ever.”

Tempe audiences will be the last to see Massey in Wicked, for now. Gammage is his last stop on the tour, but you can also see him on an upcoming episode of the CW show Heart of Dixie, where he plays a stripper who drives a party bus.

When told about Arizona Governor Janice Brewer’s “tiff on the tarmac” with President Obama, the photo of which has been photo-shopped to make Brewer into the Wicked Witch of the West, I asked Massey if all witches are redeemable or just Elphaba. “Well, Glinda is the one who’s redeemable, because Elphaba was always good. Some people, you can’t. Some people are too far gone, that’s for sure,” he said, laughing.

The Wicked tour is now playing through March 11 at ASU Gammage in Tempe, Arizona. For more information on these and future tour dates, visit the official Wicked website.

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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