Actor Kevin Massey returns in lead Broadway role

Black Mountain News

Kevin Massey, an Owen High School graduate who performed in musicals there, returns to the area soon in the lead role of the Broadway hit “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.”

From left, Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith perform in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder."

The musical comedy, which won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, plays at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina Sept. 27-Oct. 2. It also plays Nov. 22–Dec. 4 at the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts in Charlotte. In both productions, Massey plays the lead character, Monty Navarro.

Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune, sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. All the while, he has to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin) and the constant threat of landing behind bars. And he wants to do it all in time for tea.

Massey has performed in several Broadway plays, including “Memphis,” “Tarzan” and “Big River.” Tours he’s been part of include the plays “Little House on the Prairie” and “Grease!”

Kevin Massey

He has worked with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Guthrie Theater and the Utah Festival Opera. At Owen High School, he played Judas and John the Baptist in “Godspell.” At the UNC-Chapel Hill, he was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and a pre-med student.

At UNC, Massey took a lot of voice and music classes in the belief that medical schools are attracted to students who are well rounded.

Capitalizing on the acting skills he picked up at Owen High School from what he said were talented classmates and actors, he spent a lot of time working on his performing talents in the university’s music department.

Right before graduation, his best friend convinced him to move to New York City for a year.

“I reluctantly said yes,” Massey said in a recent interview. “I loved Asheville and Black Mountain and didn’t want to live in a big city.”

He started making the rounds of casting calls, “waiting in line all day,” he said, “to sing 15 bars of music hoping to be heard.” His lucky break happened when he was hired for a European tour of “Grease!”

That year in New York City turned into 15 years now. “I can’t believe that I make a living at this,” Massey said. “I didn’t know that you could.”

“Now I appreciate the rich tradition of the arts in general and music specifically” in the Swannanoa Valley, he said. He remembers singing solos in church here and being cast as Red Chief in the Primary Players’ production of “The Ransom of Red Chief,” a production in which Black Mountain Primary School students created the costumes, ran the lights and performed all the parts. Massey was a second-grader that year – 1985 or 1986, he said - and was smitten with being on stage.

He played recorder, harpsichord and cello in Swannanoa Valley schools. “It’s incredible the music education that I had in public schools there,” he said.

Lots of people from the area have asked about tickets to his performances in Greenville and Charlotte, he said.

“There’s nothing like playing close to home,” he said. “I feel like I had such an incredible upbringing and arts education in the public schools there. So it’s an honor to be so close again.”