By: Josh Ferri
Tony nominee Chad Kimball is about to star in his first musical since he departed the Tony-winning production of Memphis in 2011. Kimball takes on the title character in the stage adaptation of Julian Po at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Andrew Barrett’s musical about a suicidal drifter whose life is changed after stumbling upon a small town is one of the hottest shows of the festival, extending its run before the first performance. Broadway.com caught up with Kimball to get the scoop on this hot ticket.
“I love the idea that [Julian] wants to kill himself in the beginning, and then the really neat thing is that because of these people in this town, this little spark starts in him and his life starts to come back,” Kimball said. “And so he comes full circle and wants to live again!”
The plot of the new musical may sound heavy, but Kimball promised that the evening isn’t all drama. “I think the best part is that [co-author] Andrew [Barrett] has really given us a lot of fun, very wonderful jokes and moments that are just funny and charming,” Kimball explained. “I think that’s what [the show] needs, because it is a serious kind of overtone. There’s so many different levels to it—the story is very mythical.”
For Kimball, the musical appeared on his radar at the perfect time. “[Julian Po director] Kristen Sanderson knew I was going through a weird time and just trying to get my physical life back together, and she said I’d be perfect for it,” Kimball recalled. “I read the script, and I said yes, absolutely. To be quite honest with you, after leaving Memphis, I was pretty severely injured. And when you’re doing a Broadway show, you hit this high, this constant Utopia, and then it was just over, and I had to deal with the pain. There’s a song called “Julian’s Dream,” where my character stops in this town to rest because he’s going onto the ocean to kill himself, and the first time I sang it I just started to choke up because of what this character goes through. I think it can connect to a lot of people.”
Aside from a personal connection to the piece, Kimball was also enticed by the idea of doing a new work in New York. “I love working on and creating new stuff,” he exclaimed. “That’s my modus operandi. I definitely hope that the project continues.”
Julian Po runs July 8 through 14 at The Signature Center. In addition to Kimball, the cast includes Malcolm Gets, Jason Gotay, Corbin Reid, Luba Mason, Sean Cullen, Issadora Tulalian and Jon Fletcher.