Time and again, Kevin McAllister has wowed Ford’s Theatre audiences with his roles in the musicals Parade, Violet, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Here Kevin spoke with us about the challenges and joys of his newest role in our current musical, 110 in the Shade.
Lauren Beyea: Though 110 in the Shade was revived on Broadway recently, it’s a lesser-known classic musical. How would you describe the show to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
Kevin McAllister: 110 in the Shade is a powerful story of self-evaluation through the eyes of three very different individuals: a sheriff who is afraid to love, a girl who desperately wants someone to love, and the con man who may need love more than he realizes. The three main characters are forced to deal with themselves and each other in ways they never knew possible.
I was not very familiar with the show initially, but when I listened to the score I instantly fell in love with the music. It’s diverse. It’s humorous. It’s powerful and at the same time it’s intimate. The story and music work very well together.
LB: You play the town Sherriff, File. What are the challenges of playing this role?
KM: File is very complicated. As the sheriff in the town, he knows everyone and everyone knows him, but his connections don’t go beyond anything surface-level. He’s closed himself off from everyone, and as a result has found himself to be a loner who, in some ways, believes that is the life he is meant to lead. He doesn’t intend to be rude to anyone around him; he’s actually a nice guy. He’s just far more afraid of life than he realizes. Every now and then you will see a glimpse of his heart; you just have to look closely sometimes because, before you know it, he’s locked it away again.
We see that his interactions with Lizzie bring about something different in him. He smiles. He laughs. He’s protective of her. He could possibly want something more, but he has a lot of things to resolve with himself first before he can begin to acknowledge feelings for another.
He’s interesting to play on stage because he is careful to never reveal too much. His words and actions are guarded. It’s a challenge, but a welcomed one.
LB: Tell us more about File’s connection with Lizzie—who is played by another Ford’s favorite, Tracy Lynn Olivera! What makes Lizzie so compelling to him?
KM: I think File likes Lizzie because she knows no limits. She’s challenging. She’s funny. She’s a bit pushy at times. She’s beautiful and awkward at the same time. She wears pants when the rest of the women wear dresses. She’s an individual. Most importantly, I think they see the worst parts of each other and they like what they see.
LB: What have you most enjoyed in your experience working with Tracy, Ben and the company of 110 in the Shade so far?
KM: Tracy Olivera is the kind of scene partner every actor should have the chance to work with. She brings joy to every scene, and she challenges you to raise your game. It’s exciting. Not to mention, her voice is gorgeous and I get the chance to sing with her. I’m a happy man.
Ben Crawford’s energy is never-ending. His hair is amazing. His portrayal of Starbuck is explosive and hilarious, yet sensitive and full of heart. He’s brilliant. Yep, that’s the word, BRILLIANT.
I love the cast of 110 in the Shade. They are very warm and open artists—and they sound great! They each hold a piece of the story and the town of Three Point, Texas, wouldn’t function without each of them.
LB: You have performed regularly in musicals at Ford’s Theatre. What inspires you to return so often?
KM: There’s something magical about Ford’s Theatre. There’s history under your feet, on the walls, in the box above the stage. It’s a blessing and an honor to work here. I’ve gotten to meet some of our nation’s most important leaders and my favorite celebrities. I’ve gotten to perform in the Ford’s 150th commemoration performance. Ford’s Theatre offered me my first professional job in D.C., and I’ve learned a lot from the trust they’ve bestowed upon me. I’ve grown and changed a lot as an artist on that stage, and I hope to be a part of the Ford’s family for a long time to come.
Whether you love it, like it, or despise it, theatre makes a long-lasting impact. You can’t watch a production and not feel something. Theatre’s gift is that it sparks all kinds of emotions in people in different ways. The audience takes a two-hour journey, and they all come away with something different. The most amazing gift is that I have the chance to be a part of that.
Lauren Beyea is the Associate Director of Communications and Marketing at Ford’s Theatre, where she oversees media relations. She is editor of the Ford’s Theatre Blog. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenBeyea.