Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Jimmy, Oh, Jimmy!" - Talking to THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE's Kelly Methven

Kelly Methven
photo by Chuck Wagner
by Gil Benbrook

Scottsdale Musical Theater Company prides themselves on presenting classic musicals in large scale productions with big casts and full orchestras. Lately they've also been including familiar names from TV, film and stage into the leads and supporting roles in their shows.

Their upcoming production of the Tony winning Best Musical Thoroughly Modern Millie features Dawnn Lewis, co-star of the hit late 80s TV show A Different World as Muzzy Van Hossmere. The cast also features New York based actor Kelly Methven, who recently appeared in the 50th Anniversary International production of West Side Story, as the show's male lead Jimmy Smith.

Methven just arrived in town for rehearsals for the production, which runs at the Tempe Center for the Arts from April 25-May 5, and he sat down to answer some questions about the show, his character, and his past experiences.

How would you describe Thoroughly Modern Millie

"It’s a hit musical comedy romp: With fast feet and big a band beat! —- (I’ll never see a dime for this advertising gem) "

in rehearsal of Thoroughly Modern Millie
with Karylin Veres (Millie Dillmount).
photo courtesy Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
What can you tell us about the character you play, Jimmy Smith? 

"Superficially, he is a 1920’s millionaire hustler with a wit that is only really matched in speed by his tongue. But deeper down, he is an orphaned romantic who is profoundly impacted by a woman who chose to stand up to him... even if she had no idea who he was! "

What qualities in Jimmy do you most identify with? 

"I feel that there are many shades of Jimmy in myself. To a certain degree, I can empathize with all of it: The smooth talking, the quick wit, the caregiver mentality, and the hopeless romantic wanting to feel something. Something I think that is purposeful about Jimmy is that he never intends for his actions to cause anyone harm (even if they do). "

While Jimmy is a sweet guy he also has some secrets. What are some of the difficulties in playing a character that may not be exactly as he first appears?

"I think the discussions we have been having this far during the rehearsal process have had to do with 'dishonest vs dishonorable' (I kind of touched base on this in the last question!) Is he dishonest with Millie? Yes. Does he love Millie? Yes. The lie, for him, was more of a means to an end. He needed to trust that it wasn’t for the money."

You were in the recent international tour of West Side Story. What countries did the tour play and what was that experience like? 

"Oh, wow! I feel like stating all the stops would be a little bit 'gilding the lily'. During my 12 months in the tour I did have the blessings of playing a lot of incredible houses and seeing the better part of the world (Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, London.. eventually the tour hit 19 cities in 16 countries) . The experience is something that I’m very hard pressed to ever really put into words. I gained more emotional understanding to a worldwide perspective. Different cultures, music, FOOD!.. you can’t beat it! "

Kelly Methven as Riff in West Side Story
photo courtesy Maltz Jupiter Theater
In addition to West Side Story, you've also appeared in several other shows, such as Oklahoma!, Spring Awakening and Grand Hotel, that, like Millie are set many years ago. What difficulties do you find in playing characters and situations that are set in the past?

"This is a good question! And kind of one of the main strifes of wearing the 'actor hat'. You have to be willing to educate yourself on the period from a base level and use that knowledge to develop specificity with your character. Whether it’s a 13 year old German boy going through puberty, or a 1920’s smooth talker. "

I believe the rehearsal time for this production is relatively short. I have to imagine that's similar to the City Center Encores production of Grand Hotel that you recently appeared in. What is the process like for you with a show with a short two week rehearsal process, and what do you do to make sure you're prepared on the first day of rehearsals?

"Shorter rehearsal processes like this are pretty typical in the 'regional-realm' of work for musical theatre. So, frankly, my majority of bookings will have between a one or two week turn around in rehearsal. This process was cut shorter because of a production of West Side Story I was a part of in Florida. So interestingly enough, last week at this time, I was playing Riff 8 shows a week, and during the day I was rehearsing all of my Millie material. In NYC, we call it 'double duty'!! "

Kelly Methven, top row, 3rd from right and the cast of Spring Awakening
photo courtesy Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
You received your BFA in musical theatre performance from the University of Oklahoma, which is the school that Eloise Kropp who appeared in past SMTC shows also attended. No pressure but she made quite a splash in town! While you're a recent graduate, what are some of the most important things you learned in school that you still rely on today?

"Well, there is really no surprise here when it comes to Eloise. She is absolutely magnetic to watch on stage. This theater community in Scottsdale is lucky to have a talent like that around.  When it comes to what I most apply to my day to day life from college, it comes down to 'failing forward.'  I learned that it was always okay to try new things and be AWFUL (like really awful) and allow yourself the opportunities to fail, grow some, fail again, grow some more.... Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react! "

Thoroughly Modern Millie had a long Broadway run, won several Tony Awards and is a show that is constantly produced. Why do you think this show has become so popular? 

"Because of the timing of the piece: both comedic and decade. I believe the 1920’s are a more sensationalized decade than almost any other in US history. We are far enough retracted from it to feel comfortable revisiting that time: while also taking liberties with modern technical equipment to enhance the scope of that sensationalization. "

What do you hope audiences will take away in seeing this musical at Scottsdale Musical Theater Company? 

"Donation slips to help support this incredible local theatre! (Half kidding) As a NYC based actor, it’s always amazing to see local theatre thrive. In all earnest, I think it’s impossible to walk away from this show not smiling!"

CLICK HERE for more information, and to purchase tickets

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