Beards on Broadway: Duck Dynasty gets its own musical

Theater
by Caroline Leal
Posted 11/13/14, 04:35 pm

Brace yourself, America. Everyone’s favorite duck-hunting family is hitting the stage in a new theatrical production featuring faith and family—and enough facial hair, we may well expect, to rival Fiddler on the Roof. 

According to The New York Times, the Robertson family of the A&E reality series Duck Dynasty is the focus of an upcoming Broadway-style musical. The family has commissioned the production company behind Jersey Boys to adapt its story for the stage, opening at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Los Vegas this February. Actors will be cast to portray the quirky, sometimes controversial, clan and approval rights for production and script reportedly lie with the family, whose rags-to-riches history is detailed in the 2012 book The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson.

“I think the expectation is that it’ll be all chicken-pickin’ stuff and banjos, but what we’re trying to do is pull out as much heart, humor, and sincerity as we can to keep people surprised,” Steven Morris, one of the show’s composers, told The Times.

Some stories just make sense on the musical stage—Fiddler’s Tevye fantasizing about a rich man’s life, the Von Trapps trilling about their favorite things—but why set the life of the long-bearded, duck merchandise-selling Robertson family to music?

Morris told The Times he believes “the specificity and strangeness of the family’s lives and home are a great fit for a compelling musical.” The 90-minute show is expected to be a unique recipe of Robertson-style idiosyncrasy: footage of the real duck-hunting family sprinkled with family anecdotes, served up in a 14-song score combining country, blues, and show tunes. 

Critics say the family’s unabashed Christianity means the musical will face strong scrutiny on Broadway. Last December, biblically-based comments about homosexuality made by the family’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, sparked an outcry that got him suspended from the show for nine days. Michael David, the state show’s producer, and Jeff Calhoun, its openly gay musical director, said they were offended by Robertson’s remarks and will address them in the musical, having agreed to disagree with the family on the issue.

“The show will end up challenging the views and assumptions of people across the political spectrum, more than most theater does,” David told The Times.

Kayla Kessinger of Mount Hope, W.Va., a Dynasty fan and supporter of the Robertson’s Christian conservatism, is optimistic about the family gaining another platform and notes a certain irony among tolerance preachers grousing about the musical. Gay rights advocate Sarah Kate Ellis told The Times the Robertson family dangerously “masks” the issue of homophobia as a religious value.

“I find it ironic that the people who profess to be so tolerant … are being completely intolerant to this producer’s decision to participate in developing a musical for a family whose ideology differs from his own,” Kessinger said.

The Robertsons’ attention-getting power is undeniable, said Spencer Brown—a political writer from Virginia Beach, Va.—noting last year’s controversy bolstered rather than crippled its popularity when a massive backlash of support convinced A&E to lift the suspension. Still, he questions the need for a Robertson business venture of this type.

“I’d consider seeing a musical, but I think their format is strong as it is,” Brown said. “If the story isn’t broke, why fix it?”

Tom Shepherd of Virginia Beach, another fan, expressed skepticism as well. A musical about the Robertsons? 

“That would be ducking ridiculous,” he said.

Caroline Leal

Caroline Leal is a freelance journalist for WNG.org. She graduated from Regent University with a degree in English and Professional Writing, and lives in Central Texas. Follow Caroline on Twitter @anncarolineleal.

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