It was quite the one-two punch to see Keith Byron Kirk as Jim Conley in the Parade tour, then to see him only a few months later as one of the leads in the tour of The Civil War. If you’ve got the “Freedom’s Child” scene from The Civil War as aired on The Tony Awards, you know what a powerful voice Kirk has, which is equaled by his presence on stage. When the light shone on Kirk, you couldn’t take your eyes from him.
His Jim Conley, on the other hand, was uncompromisingly unappealing, unquestionably guilty, and impressively cunning in his ability to manipulate the circumstances and prejudices at hand for his own purposes. Often, the least appealing characters in musicals—villains and rogues—tend to be the least remembered for the simple fact that you don’t like the characters themselves, no matter how skillfully played they are. But Kirk really dug in on this character and performed him all out, and he was amazing.
After a run in For the Glory in Gettysburg, someone on All That Chat said Kirk is currently an understudy in The Color Purple in Chicago. It’s always great to see worthy talent getting worthwhile work. Hopefully when the show makes the rounds for the rest of the country, Keith Byron Kirk will be performing regularly.
Note: In the clip below, you’ll see Keith Byron Kirk singing at the end.
the Broadway Mouth
August 28, 2007