BWW Interview: Matt McClure of STAND BY YOUR MAN: TAMMY WYNETTE STORY at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Known as the first lady of country music, Tammy Wynette was born in Mississippi in 1942 as Virginia Wynette Pugh. As a child, Tammy worked the cotton fields with her family, while using music as an escape from her everyday life. Over the years, Tammy experienced poverty, hard work, life as a single mother after her first marriage dissolved, disappointment and rejection in the music industry, passion, heartbreak, and happiness. Her life experience infused her music with raw emotion and honesty, and that, along with her talent, led to her success and lasting influence in the world of country music. Her recording of "Stand by Your Man" is still a favorite at karaoke nights and on country music playlists. The musical Stand By Your Man: Tammy Wynette Story takes the audience on a journey through Tammy's life and music, and can be enjoyed at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre starting January 10th. Broadway World had the opportunity to get the inside scoop on this production from Matt McClure, who takes on the role of Tammy's second husband and fellow musician George Jones.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
McClure: I'm originally from Kennesaw, Georgia. I grew up playing different sports and traveling around the southeast for tournament after tournament. Then I hit high school and switched into the theatre world. When I'm not performing, I also work on the tech side - carpentry and lighting mainly. I enjoy traveling and being able to see the country while also doing what I love.
BWW: How did you get interested in acting?
McClure: I took an acting class on a whim in high school and really enjoyed it. Soon after, I was in my first show instead of trying out for baseball. I'm the first person in my family to take this kind of career path, but I love the freedom it creates within my life, both in my career and my personal life.
BWW: Why were you interested in doing this show?
McClure: I've spent the past few years mainly doing "live music shows" (i.e. Buddy Holly, Million Dollar Quartet, and Ring of Fire), and this was another chance for one of those moments. Over the past five to ten years, actor/musicians have really become a necessity in the business because of the types of shows being created. It has essentially become the 4th "threat" and created the "quadruple threat performer." Aside from that, I, personally, can't think of a bigger thrill, in a live performance setting at least, than playing live music. It always makes me laugh when the audience asks if we're "actually playing the instruments." I suppose that means we do a pretty good job of creating the original sound that they remember.
BWW: What is the biggest challenge in representing a real person?
McClure: It would definitely have to be creating a representation of the character that will please the audience and match what they remember/love about the person, but also making sure you're bringing a bit of yourself to the role and not trying to just be an impersonator. In shows like this, we not only get to show the performance side of these people that audiences loved, but we also dive into their real lives-their home lives. We get to address things that fans maybe didn't really know or understand before, and because of that we hopefully make these famous icons a little more real, which in turn makes them more relatable. And when done successfully, the stories and comments you hear from audiences never get old-from times that they saw the "real Tammy" live or how they grew up listening to a certain song and what it meant to them. It makes you proud for helping them relive those memories.
BWW: Were you a fan of Tammy Wynette's music before doing the show?
McClure: Honestly, I knew her name and a couple of songs, but that was about it. I just wasn't very knowledgeable of this era of country. But as I've listened to it more and more, it's quickly become something I enjoy and respect, and I can definitely hear its influences in other music.
BWW: What is your favorite song in the show?
McClure: Oooh, this is tough... there are just so many different options, from an opening gospel, to up-tempo "stick it to the man" types, to slow ballads with really great lyrics, it's tough to choose. But if I had to pick one, well two, I'd say: "Another Chance" and "Till I Can Make It On My Own." I do like them for their music and lyrics, but also where they fall in the show is a great set up to Act Two and the rest of the story. They also contrast each other well - musically, emotionally, etc.
BWW: For someone who has never seen this show, how would you describe it to them?
McClure: It's a quick-paced look at Tammy Wynette's life and her journey through her career and with her husbands. To somewhat reference part of the show, it's like when your life flashes before your eyes in your final moments and you're witnessing all of the significant parts.
BWW: Just like real life is full of ups and downs and lots of different emotions, this show explores the whole range of human experience. What is the most emotional part of the show in your opinion?
McClure: I don't want to give too much away, so I'll stay slightly vague, but there are many parts in the show that allow for a strong emotional connection, ranging from one extreme to the other. Like I said before, you get to see into these people's true lives when you're used to only seeing them as performers. Things change when they're not "putting on a show" for their fans, and you get to be there for all of it, especially with Tammy as she fights to push onward no matter what life throws at her
BWW: What sets this show apart from other musicals you've seen or done?
McClure: This is one of the few biographical musicals that incorporates the music in different ways. Most, like Buddy Holly, Million Dollar Quartet, etc., involve the performers singing the songs in front of a microphone like they would have for a recording session or live performance. And, while you do see Tammy perform her songs "live" and "on stage," there are other times where her songs are used in the context of the story. Because of that, you see the deeper meaning behind her music, and especially her lyrics. They say that if you can't say something with words, you can say it with music, and so many songs are well-known and admired for their lyrics, but to see them put into the context of the story, especially in the life of the person who wrote them, it just seems to raise it to an entirely new level.
BWW: If your character were to offer a piece of advice to an aspiring country singer, what would it be?
McClure: Be yourself. Stay unique and don't strive to be like anyone else. Having influential people in your life is great, but at the end of the day you want to be your own person. That's how you'll become memorable and create a lasting impression that doesn't blend in with the masses.
Stand By Your Man is on stage January 10-February 9. Visit www.dutchapple.com to order your tickets today!