When “42nd Street” brings its tour Monday to the Robinson Center Music Hall, it will bring home two Arkansans as well — Kyle Massey and Erin West. Former Jonesboro resident Massey plays the pompous tenor Billy Lawler, who woos the ensemble understudy-turned-star Peggy Sawyer in what has been termed the “Broadway musical for people who love Broadway musicals.”
The show spawned such hit songs as “We’re in the Money,” “I Only Have Eyes for You” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”
In a phone interview, Massey said the elaborate production has a cast of 42. “On the road, there just aren’t that many shows that have that many people in them,” Massey, 23, said.
“The choreography is brilliant. And the songs, people know all the songs. It’s a high-energy show and people leave trying to tap dance. At least, people have e-mailed me saying they’ve started to take tap lessons.”
Massey said he and West, 25, a native of Russellville who is in the ensemble, are “like best friends.”
Massey landed a spot on the national tour fresh out of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. Massey, who studied musical theater at college, says he’s a “big fan” of the genre.
“Growing up in Arkansas and Jonesboro, I’m not sure I knew what real musical theater was, per se. We’d go to the Orpheum in Memphis when I was older and saw national tours, but before that, I knew I loved music, I loved dance and I loved singing, but I didn’t know before high school there was an art form that combined them all.”
High school plays and even a lunchroom dinner theater organized at Jonesboro High School convinced him that theater was the direction to head. He appeared in summer stock and community theater productions of “42nd Street,” and left college after his junior year to find out what New York theater was really like. There, he landed a role with a company that sent him to Phoenix for a Christmas season show. Then, it was back to Springfield to finish school before he was called to join “42nd Street” last May.
“By the time I graduated I kind of was already in the scene. I had tested the waters and knew my name was out there and it was an easy transition to go onto the show.”
Ron Smith stars as the director, Julian Marsh. Maura Davi is Peggy.
Massey expects a busy week. The tour arrives in Fayetteville on Friday for three days, then moves to Little Rock on Monday. He’ll have friends and family at both places. “It’s going to be nuts. I doubt I’ll get as much sleep as I’m used to,” he said.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Ticket prices range from $20 to $47. Call Celebrity Attractions at 244-8800 or Ticketmaster at 975-7575 to reserve.