‘Duck Commander Musical’ brings family’s values to the stage
If the concept of a stage musical inspired by the Robertson family of hit A&E reality show Duck Dynasty fame seems fanciful, maybe even ripe for a Saturday Night Live skit, imagine the initial reaction of the successful Broadway director asked to oversee Duck Commander Musical in Las Vegas.
“The last week has been surreal because on Wednesday I was at the Ford’s Theatre creating a show commemorating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination,” says Tony-nominated director Jeff Calhoun. “Then a couple of days later I’m watching Newsies in Las Vegas in this beautiful theater (The Smith Center), and then hours later I’m in a rehearsal room with the Robertsons. It’s surreal. I love how eclectic my career is.”
Calhoun laughs as he finishes his sentence, excited at the prospect of his first Las Vegas production in an era where the barriers between arts and entertainment continue to bend and blur. The Robertsons famously parlayed Duck Commander, a family duck call business started in 1972 by patriarch Phil Robertson, into one of the most popular reality shows in television history. Ample opportunities for branding came with that success, including the publication of the 2012 book written by third son Willie and his wife, Korie, The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family and Ducks Built a Dynasty. That book became the basis of Duck Commander Musical, albeit with an atmosphere-appropriate score and actors who could kick up their heels and sing through beards—the menfolk anyway—as long as their forearms.
The production has more heavy hitters than Calhoun assuring its success, including veteran entertainment industry executive Tommy Mottola and Jersey Boys producer and Dodger Theatricals co-founder Michael David. Stage and film actor Asa Somers was the book writer while composers Steven Morris, Robert Morris and Joe Shane drew on country, rock, gospel and pop to create the soundtrack to the Robertsons’ story. Broadway veterans cast in the principal roles include Mimi Bessette (who worked with Calhoun in Bonnie & Clyde) as Miss Kay, Ben Thompson (American Idiot, Matilda the Musical) as Willie, and Tad Wilson (Bonnie & Clyde, Rock of Ages) as Phil.
While Duck Commander Musical is billed as being about “faith, food and family,” Calhoun has looked at the production as a bridge between the Robertsons’ heartland audience and fans of the live stage. “I always just do a show that I really fall in love with and I would want to see,” he said. “I assume if I want to see it, the rest of the people want to see it. I hope we cast a very wide net of who the demographics are for this show. I would like Duck Dynasty fans, and people who are not Duck Dynasty fans, to embrace this show.”
Rio, 7 p.m. Sun.-Tues. & Fri., 7 & 10 p.m. Thurs. & Sat. (dark April 13); 7:30 p.m. show only April 14, 7 p.m. show only April 16, $49-$125 plus tax and fee. 702.777.7776