When Broadway director Jeff Calhoun received a call in 2013 about a new musical about a family from West Monroe, Louisiana, he didn't know much about Duck Dynasty, A&E's megahit reality show. When he was told they were looking for a director for a new musical adapted from a book by Willie Robertson and his wife Korie, he said he needed to read it and hear the music before making a decision. "I did, and I loved it," he explains. "It had a great deal of heart and it moved me, and the music was kick-ass."
When Phil Robertson, family patriarch, was exposed for a series of homophobic rants, Calhoun spoke with Willie about not responding to his father's statements after a gag order from A&E. Willie visited Calhoun and his husband, his first time in the apartment of a gay couple, and they talked for hours.
"We really bonded. Willie asked, 'Would it help if I said something, after the silence for a year?' Then, 20 minutes after he walked out that door, he called me back and said: 'It's done. I called Sean, I'm going on tonight' He went on Hannity that night... and spoke to his fan base, and said the family did not agree necessarily with what the father said. I have nothing but respect for him and Korie. That was the first step for him, and he didn't have to do that. He's also taking a big chance."
"The fact that he hired an openly proud married gay man to direct his show, to turn his book into a musical, and then had no problem with the entire creative team and some of the actors being gay, I think that speaks volumes. I would just love people to understand that it's a two-way street. If he's willing to walk the walk like that, we should be willing to open our hearts to people who are an easy punch line."
The Duck Commander Musical opened in April at the Rio Hotel and Casino's Crown Theater in Las Vegas.