A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beechwood alum Robert Hardin heads Off-Broadway for dual roles in new show, “McCready The Musical”

By Vicki Prichard
NKyTribune reporter

As a ten-year-old, Robert Hardin attempted to impress his Blessed Sacrament knothole baseball coaches by throwing brush back pitches, emulating baseball legend Roger “The Rocket” Clemens.

Twenty years later, Hardin — known as Robert Anderson during his youth in Northern Kentucky — is getting another chance to emulate “The Rocket,” this time when he takes to the stage for his Off-Broadway debut in “McCready The Musical.”

The show chronicles the turbulent life of country music singer Mindy McCready, who, by the time she was 20-years-old, had sold more than two million copies of her first album. McCready died at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot. Clemons fits into McCready’s story, as does aspiring country singer Billy McKnight, as relationships plagued with drama.

Beechwood High School graduate, Robert Hardin, will take the stage Off-Broadway in production "McCready The Musical"

In a dual performance, Hardin takes on the roles of Clemons and McKnight in “McCready the Musical.” The show’s initial run took place in Los Angeles in 2015, then ran at the 2016 Holly-wood Fringe Festival. It comes to Off Broadway on September 8 – 10 and Sept. 15 – 17 at New York’s Triad Theatre, starring actress Jennifer Blake, who co-created and co-wrote the production with Jon Bernstein.

For Hardin, a 2004 graduate of Beechwood High School, playing Clemons on stage is a bit surreal.

“I always admired his tenacity and competitiveness,” says Hardin. “He’s kind of the one consistent thing in Mindy’s life.”

Hardin will shift creative gears with McKnight’s character, who fathered two children with McCready.

“Billy McKnight is, in a lot of ways, the comic relief of the show, which is always fun, but he’s al-so got a darker side,” says Hardin. “So it’s a fun challenge switching in and out of characters.”

Taking to the stage

The stage first beckoned to Hardin when he was just a kid attending Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Lakeside Park with his family.

“My first, and still favorite, director, is my mom,” says Hardin. “She directed me in several musicals growing up at our church. I still think she has the best eye and insight.”

At a young age, he says, it was his mother who taught him how to have a dialogue with a director about creating a character.

“She’s just the best,” he says.

Hardin at Venice Beach with his favorite first director, his mother Rosemarie Deye

Hardin at Venice Beach with his favorite first director, his mother Rosemarie Deye

But Beechwood’s Alissa Ayers was pretty special too. Back in the day, Ayres, who is now Beechwood High School principal, directed the school musicals.

“I somehow got up the courage to audition for The Sound of Music my sophomore year and Alissa Ayres, for some reason, decided to cast me as Rolf,” says Hardin. “I had a solo and kiss-ing scene. It was baptism by fire.”

In what may well be exquisite preparation for pursuing rolls in a tough industry, Hardin recalls Ayres as “amazing” and demanding “a level of excellence.”

“I can remember her yelling, “I don’t care if a light falls on your head, you do not break character; you get up and stay in character,”” says Hardin. “I carry that belief with me to this day.

Teachers mattered

Teachers and teachers — both athletic and performing arts — are quick to come to mind when Hardin talks about his earliest influencers.

“Bobbie Kidwell, Michelle Bertke and Alyssa Vanderpool (part of the Beechwood musical production team) are what I call guardian angels,” says Hardin.

“Dee Anne Bryll [an award-winning director, choreographer, actress, and teacher] directed me as Daddy Warbucks in Annie my senior year. She brought a professionalism that I had never experienced before. I remember thinking, ‘She was wonderful.’ I adore that production to this day.”

Robert Hardin as Daddy Warbucks in the Beechwood High School production of "Annie." Also featured in the photo are Rebecca Matthews and Julie Matthews Ferrell

Robert Hardin as Daddy Warbucks in the Beechwood High School production of “Annie.” Also featured in the photo are Rebecca Matthews and Julie Matthews Ferrell

Beechwood football coaches Mike Yeagle and Noel Rash also showed encouragement beyond the gridiron.

“Both of those men not only taught me discipline and hard work on the football field, but they be-lieved in my talents and were kind enough to let me leave practice early on numerous occasions so I could run up the hill sweaty to the cafetorium (Beechwood students did, and still do, perform musicals from a stage in the high school cafeteria) and rehearse,” says Hardin. “It’s those kind of memories that make Beechwood a special place.”

From Hilltopper to Hollywood

The acting bug bit deep, and after graduation Hardin chose Western Kentucky University as his training ground for stage and screen.

“A couple of the professors had taught my mom when she was in grad school,” says Hardin. “So that made it special.”

The school was also small enough that he had a real shot at musicals, dramas, operas, classical and comedy, as well as directing experimental theatre.

In 2008, when WKU graduates turned their tassels to a new direction, Hardin set his sights on the east and west coasts for acting opportunities.

“I knew that if I wanted to act professionally I needed to be in either New York or Los Angeles,” says Hardin. “Initially, New York seemed like the place to be.”

New York offered familiar faces — friends he’d interned with at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY, who lived in the city.

“But then I visited LA, got some good feedback from an agent, fell in love with the weather, and realized that at the end of the day my goal was then, and still is, to be on a television show,” says Hardin. “If you want that, you kind of have to be in LA full time.”

Related Posts

Leave a Comment