If you ever meet Matthew Kelly, you might get a glimpse of the rose tattoo on his arm. The rose symbolizes the moment he realized that he wanted to pursue theater. Kelly can dance, sing and act—in other words, he is a triple threat.
Though his mother will say she knew of his potential when he was in elementary school in Phoenix City, AL, and Columbus, Georgia, Kelly says he recognized that he really had talent during middle school. As he matriculated through school, he worked with vocal coaches and auditioned each year to be a part of the drama team. Each year he gained more confidence and solidified his love of the art.
Kelly’s powerful vocals were what landed him at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Kelly advises aspiring future drama scholars to understand that pursuing a theatrical degree is not for the faint of heart. Though he fondly remembers the role of the baker in “Into the Woods,” he also admits that being a student of theater requires true commitment to the craft.
“I loved that film. I love the way the writer gives life lessons, and I really liked that I played the lead role,” he says.
Kelly’s love of his art is apparent, and he describes learning what he needed to do to keep his body healthy and learning what foods to avoid to keep his voice strong, for example, he will not drink certain coffee before singing as that may impact his vocal cords.
Drink Water and Mind Your Business. Now that he is a graduate, Kelly tours with the number one national tour company, performing “Hairspray” as a swing. The schedule of a traveling show can be demanding. Kelly spent 3 weeks in New York rehearsing, one week in Kentucky for technicals, and one week in Oklahoma for the opening. As you can imagine, he has spent countless hours on a tour bus, traveling through different time zones and battling the dreaded pollen. He leans on doing what he knows works for his body and voice, using the aisle of the bus to stretch and finding a more recognized establishment for food options. He of course drinks lots of water to stay hydrated.
And We Are Swinging. As the play was just launching, the actor portraying Gilbert contracted COVID, and so with only an hour before show time, Kelly was tasked to perform. As a swing, it is his job to learn all lines, singing numbers and dance routines. Kelly only had a few minutes to run through the show and be fitted before the audience arrived.
Ever the professional, the show went on. The director was so impressed that Kelly is now the swing for three characters and the assistant dance coach.
“I love the challenge. I have swing brain now,” he says. “I have had to step in a few times, even doing a split track” (playing two characters at the same time).
We cannot wait for “Hairspray” to stop in the metro Atlanta area!