‘White Christmas’ escape

'White Christmas' tapper Matthew Kirk dishes on his training, his musical and its holiday messages to audiences

The holidays are here. Thanksgiving is over and you’re still full of turkey (or tofu), but that doesn’t mean you can stop. The holidays are here! And, it’s time to get out and see all the beautiful, wintry sights. That includes holiday classics like Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The musical, based on the hit 1945 film staring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, includes many of the Christmas favorites you’ve come to know by heart. The production hits Charlotte’s Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Dec. 7-12.

qnotes got the chance to speak briefly with “White Christmas” ensemble member Matthew Kirk. In his 20s, Kirk has been performing musical theater since he was child, and was cast in the original Broadway production of the musical.

So, you’re in Hartford, Conn., right now?

Yeah.

And, you all started Nov. 9 in Greenville, S.C.?

Actually, we started the tour in Atlanta and previewed it in Chattanooga. So, Greenville was the third city in the tour.

Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Houston and Oklahoma City.

When were you first introduced to theater, and when did you know this was something you wanted for a career?

My mom put me into a performing arts academy for kids when I was seven. She could see I had a flare for acting and performing and it was what just came natural to me. I loved it. I started taking voice lessons and later on dance and put the all together and decided musical theatre was really what I wanted to do.

Did you go to college for theater?

Yeah, I went to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music for musical theatre and graduated in 2004 and moved directly to New York and started auditioning.

- - - advertisement - - -

What was the first musical or show you auditioned for and was cast in?

I auditioned for a lot of shows, but the first one I was cast in was out of New York, a production of “Beauty and the Beast” that played at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. It’s actually the same producer who is producing this tour.

You performed with the North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh. What for?

I was in the ensemble of “Wizard of Oz.” I think it was the summer of 2006. It was a quick gig, just three weeks.

Did you get a chance to go out and see any bit of Raleigh?

We didn’t get out that much. There wasn’t that much time and we shared rental cars (laughs). So, it wasn’t easy to go out and explore, especially with no one to lead me around or show me where I was going.

So, life on the road isn’t always glamorous is it?

It depends on the city you’re in. If you’re in a city and you have everything you need within walking distance and a good public transportation system it can be great. But, if you are in a city where everything is far away from your hotel and you are sharing a rental car with four other people, it can be pretty unglamorous.

I’ve seen the film “White Christmas,” and it is great and wonderful, but I’ve always thought of it as quite dated. What exactly drew you to the musical?

It is dated (laughs), but I was mostly drawn to it because of its choreographer, Randy Skinner. I’m a tapper, and “White Christmas” is a big tap show. I’d seen “42nd Street” on Broadway and I loved his choreography. I wanted to do it, but it closed before I got to New York. I found out Randy Skinner was the choreographer for “White Christmas” and that they needed a tap dancers. I’m a tap dancer and I really wanted to be a in a big tap show.

You are part of the ensemble, but have you played any other roles or characters in your other tours?

- - - advertisement - - -

I’ve always been in the ensemble of the show, but every year my specialties change a bit. Everyone in the ensemble gets a featured bit here and there, like a line or a feature dance part. Every year, my role in the ensemble changes slightly but never really drastically.

Is there a difference between being one of the main characters and being part of the ensemble? Is one better than the other, or just different in some ways?

I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. When you’re playing a character, though, you have a bigger role and are much more a part of the story telling. The ensemble does more dancing and singing.

What do you think is special about White Christmas? Is it pure entertainment or does it send another message to audiences?

I think the show has a spirit of generosity in its message and story. I think it’s mainly a heartwarming spectacle. You enjoy the songs and dances, but there is a heart to it and a message of generosity.

With the economy so bad, and with the holidays rolling around, a lot of people are having it tough. Do you think a show like “White Christmas” gives people inspiration or gives people an escape from whatever reality they are living?

I think “White Christmas” is pure escapist entertainment and it is a way to get your mind off all the crazy things going on in our world and just enjoy the beautiful music and dances.

What other shows or types of shows do you foresee doing in your future?

I really feel like I fit well in traditional, classical musical theatre, but I’m really wanting to play more roles and get into film and TV as well. I’ve done musicals my whole life. I’d done some film as a kid and I’d like to get back there and start as an adult getting my feet wet again in film.

Well, if “Glee” is ever looking for tap dancers, will you audition?

Of course! (laughs) That would be really fun. : :

- - - advertisement - - -

Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.