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Kevin McMahon has been a fixture on the Southern California musical theater scene for so many years that it’s hard to believe he is now in his fourth year of touring the country in the First National Tour of the Broadway blockbuster Wicked. With the tour about to “sit down” for a month in Costa Mesa, Kevin graciously sat down to catch us up on these past four years and to fill us in on his life in musical theater.

Hi Kevin, I’m always curious to know how performers get their start, when that first inspiration to perform first took place, so let’s start with that. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, a town about twenty miles due west of Boston.

How and when did the acting bug first bite?

I always loved movie musicals and put on shows in my basement but I didn’t really get involved in theater until high school when I was encouraged to enroll in a musical theater class. Up until then I didn’t really have the confidence. I was awkward, stuttered a bit and then a wonderful teacher helped me find my “voice” as it were. Finding my niche in theater really saved me, as it does for so many.

Since you graduated from the illustrious Boston Conservatory, you obviously had your musical theater gifts from an early age. What were the very first shows you did in high school and college?

I did two musicals total before I was accepted at the Conservatory, Sid in The Pajama Game as my high school senior play—only the seniors could be in the musical at my Catholic high school—and Franz in The Sound Of Music at a local church. I’d done a few revues, but just those two book musicals. Pretty crazy. I honestly didn’t know I had the ability. I had the drive and the passion but the jury was still out, especially to my parents, on the talent part.

What about at the Conservatory?

In college, I thrived because the shows we did were all so esoteric. Lots of original work, Ionesco and experimental stuff, in addition to the musical work.

Were any of the roles you played in college special to you, perhaps because you got to play parts that after graduation you might be years too young for?

I guess my favorite experience was playing John in Tennessee Williams’ The Eccentricities Of A Nightingale, but speaking of being too young for a role, I did The Gin Game in acting class. I must have been terrible, I imagine, but it was a good exercise.

You’re part of a unique breed of musical theater performers, those who’ve made the West Coast their home base. It seems looking at your résumé that there’s not a major Southern California theater you haven’t performed in, in addition to NoCal, Vegas, Utah, etc. Why not New York City?

I moved to Los Angeles soon after graduating school, mainly because I had friends here. My first show was the West Coast Premiere of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It was an extraordinary hit and I figured it would just be more of the same. Frankly, it took me a few years to establish myself and actually make a living doing just theater here. I did the bi-coastal thing and had a place in NYC for a few years. I did a show off-Broadway and at Paper Mill and would certainly welcome going back with the right project. I loved being in New York and I go a few times each year, but the quality of life, for me anyway, is so much richer here.

Forever Plaid San Diego Cast Clockwise from top David S. Humphrey, Michael Dalager, Kevin, Scott Dreier nm5 Roar of the Greasepaint at Starlight Musical Theatre with Stephen Reynolds  James Leo Ryan and Kevin in a scene from The Full Monty
Kevin in Forever Plaid, A Little Night Music, The Roar Of The Greasepaint, and The Full Monty*

Looking over your list of musical theater credits, I wonder if I dare even ask you to name your three or four favorite roles or productions pre-Wicked, but I will anyway. What are they, and why do they stand out for you?

Jinx in Forever Plaid has to be one of them. I’ve done that role more times than I can count. It’s such a special show that always wonderful, but with the right quartet, can be magical. I’ve done four productions of A Little Night Music, all so different, but that incredible score! And two productions of both The Full Monty as Malcolm and The Roar Of The Greasepaint—The Smell Of The Crowd as Cocky. I love revisiting a role and seeing what a new director will make me discover.

You’ve been such an L.A. treasure that it’s been hard to lose you for so long to Wicked. What made you decide to undertake this adventure in Oz that has taken you near and far but mostly far from home?

Well, these opportunities, full-production contract Broadway tours, are pretty rare for us West Coasters. It’s a huge credit and not one many would pass up. Obviously working with such an incredible creative team, who are all still involved, was a huge draw.

You’ve done so many shorter runs in your career, how has it felt to do the same show hundreds upon hundreds of performances?

Honestly, I love a long run. I love the security that comes with knowing you have a job for a while and the freedom it allows you. Sure, it gets hard to keep it fresh sometimes, but with a tour like Wicked you get to sit down in great cities, usually for a month or more, and you have the opportunity to explore.

Any minuses to touring?

I had my bathroom renovated last fall and have yet to see it!

Your official roles in Wicked are as Elphaba’s father and an Ozzian Official, but you also understudy two major roles, the Wizard and Doctor Dillamond. How often have you been able to go on as one or the other?

I get to do these roles on a very varied basis. Sometimes I’m on once or twice a month; sometimes it will be several months between going on in a role. I recently opened the San Francisco run as the Wizard which was lots of fun.

Wicked04 Wicked01
Kevin as Dr. Dillamond and as The Wizard himself

What’s your favorite part of playing each of them?

I love the honesty and direct attitude of Dillamond and the on the opposite side of the spectrum, the con man aspects of the Wizard.

I imagine that you’ve traveled more in the past four years than ever before in your life. Are there ever days that the touring life gets you down?

I actually thrive on the touring part of this job. Traveling with my dog, Seamus, has made the touring aspect especially enjoyable.

kevin and pooch How is that, aside from the companionship?

When you have a dog, it forces you to get out and experience the neighborhoods and see life as a local would.

Any other touring plusses?

I love that each month we get to begin again in a fresh city and experience new things.

Do you have any favorites among the cities you’ve visited?

My favorite stops outside of Southern California have been my hometown of Boston, New Orleans, Portland, Seattle, Honolulu and some surprises … Providence and Columbus.

I was able to see Wicked on Broadway early on in its phenomenal success, and it’s going stronger than ever at the Gershwin, in two current national tours, and all over the world. Why has Wicked become a mega-megahit when others musicals end up being just hits or megahits?

It’s rather hard to pinpoint, but I think it has to do with a combination of the universal message the musical imparts and the strong source material that has its own roots in a book/film that is part of the collective consciousness. Maybe that’s over-thinking it, but it touches and appeals to so many diverse people.

A New Brain at Musical Theatre Guild with Stuart Ambrose A New Brain at Musical Theatre Guild with Michael A. Shepperd
Kevin with Stuart Ambrose and Michael A.  Shepperd in A New Brain

You took a brief time off last year to star in Musical Theatre Guild’s Concert Staged Reading of A New Brain, for which you won a Best Lead Actor Scenie. Can you tell our readers briefly what MTG does? You’ve been a longtime member, have appeared in a dozen and a half of their shows, and continue handling their PR from afar.

Musical Theatre Guild is an artist collective that presents staged concerts of musicals that, for one reason or another, are rarely seen. I’ve been involved with MTG since its very first season and became an active member way back in 1999. In addition to the concerts, we also present in-school educational programs teaching kids about musical theater. It’s an incredible way to keep an art form alive.

I understand that A New Brain was particularly significant for you. Can you tell our readers why?

A New Brain was special to me because the plot of the musical mirrored a real event in my personal life.

What was that?

Just like the character in the musical, I underwent successful brain surgery, mine to repair an aneurysm. I didn’t have dancing frogs appear in my hospital room like Gordon in Brain, but it was a scary time nonetheless and I had a lot to draw from.

And how was it putting this show together in twenty-five hours?

It was an incredible experience, and doing it with just a weekend to rehearse it made it even more surreal. I just had to jump in head first and go with my instincts. That a role I would kill to do again!

You’ve already gotten to return home with Wicked in previous stops in L.A. and San Diego, and now you’re going to be onstage at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa. How exciting are these Southern California stops for you?

It’s always so great to reconnect with friends. That’s the hardest part of being on the road—missing my circle of friends and familiar places. San Diego is like a home away from home, having worked there so much, and it’s my absolute favorite city on tour, but nothing beats sleeping in your own home.

Last but not least, I must ask, Will we be seeing you back here in the Wicked tour two, three, four years from now? After all, actors have been known to tour with a show for a decade or even more. Will you be one of them?

I’ve just marked four years. I’m not exactly sure when the end of this journey will be. Wicked has allowed me so many opportunities and opened quite a few doors, but as the saying goes: “There’s no place like home.”


*Forever Plaid photo with David S. Humphrey, Michael Dalager, Kevin, and Scott Dreier; A Little Night Music photo with Damon Kirsche and Amanda Naughton; The Roar Of The Greasepaint photo with Stephen Reynolds; The Full Monty photo with James Leo Ryan

A New Brain photos by Daniel G. Lam.  A Little Night Music photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.  Kevin and Seamus by

KEVIN’S WICKED BIO: Proud Equity member. National tours: City Of Angels, Forever Plaid, Fantasticks. Recent regional: Full Monty (Ovation Nomination), Little Night Music (South Coast Repertory), Sweeney Todd (Pirelli). Boston Conservatory graduate. CD in itunes, more info:

Purchase tickets for Wicked at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts

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