Interview with Chad Kimball (Huey Calhoun)
In your personal opinion, who is Huey as an individual?
Huey stands, I think, in stark contrast to what an audience “expects” a leading man to be; he is belligerent and abrasive at times, he is not comely in his quest to share his love of rhythm and blues. In fact – and this is why I believe Huey and his passion resonates with people – he is simply an “everyman”. I believe he inspires people through his singular trait of just going after what he wants.
What did you take away the most from performing the role of Huey?
Every single show I come away with the satisfaction that our work onstage and my work playing Huey might have changed someone for the better. The idea that my job eight times a week could inspire and excite and lift the spirits of another human being is immensely gratifying.
At your performance, do you feel that you mostly represent the changes in music in 1950’s or addressing the racial inequalities of the time?
“Memphis” tells our Great American Story. The civil rights movement and the birth of rock and roll have always gone hand in hand. But this is the first time that story has been told so completely and originally on the Broadway stage. No one can tell the whole story of racial inequality in the 50’s without also including the earth shattering rise of rock and roll and its power to instigate change in people.
Your character, Huey, didn’t welcome New York and wanted to stay in Memphis. How much of that was his fear of no longer being the local celebrity and how much of it was his refusal to take the commercial approach in music?
I think Huey uses the idea of commercially “selling out” as his pièce de résistance. However, the deep, deep shame he feels for being illiterate fuels his fear of not being accepted. Delray says in Act Two: “they will laugh at you in New York” – I think Huey believes this. He has only known Memphis and her music. Memphis is, with the exception of Felicia, his only true love.
Do you feel that Delray’s initial unwillingness to accept Huey was a natural defensive reaction or that in its own way it was what is now called ‘reverse racism’?
I believe Delray is simply trying to protect his own interests. His distrust of Huey seems to be a natural reaction to Huey’s dangerous and aggressive manner. In a segregated and often violent environment, Delray is just trying to hold on to any safe harbor there is.
Was Felicia’s decision to pursue her career and leave Huey, who discovered her, behind the only logical choice or more of a betrayal?
I don’t think anyone would really believe that her leaving Huey is anything but a defensive posturing. The only reason to question her motives would be the notion that she is climbing the career ladder. But, I truly believe that if she felt safe in Memphis, having been beaten up so badly earlier in play, she probably would not leave him.