Broadway actor Chad Kimball has filed a lawsuit against the producers of Come From Away, claiming that he wasn’t rehired for the show’s post-pandemic return to the stage after he spoke out against Covid restrictions on religious services.
Kimball, who was an original Broadway cast member of the musical when it opened in 2017 (and performed in several pre-Broadway engagements), alleges in the suit that the production’s “failure to re-hire” him in the role of “Kevin T.” for the post-shutdown return was based wholly or partly upon his religious faith.
The actor, who was Tony-nominated in 2010 for his lead performance in Broadway’s Memphis, describes himself in the suit (which Deadline has reviewed) as “a devout and practicing Christian,” and suggests he was not rehired either for the Broadway production or its live capture for an Apple TV+ special because his outspoken beliefs made producers “uncomfortable.”
Kimball’s religious beliefs became well-known to the public last November when the actor, who was among Broadway’s first wave of theater workers to become sickened with Covid in March 2020, spoke out against Washington State’s newly enacted Covid protocols and capacity limits for indoor religious services.
After the state prohibited “congregation singing” and required that all congregation members and attendees must wear facial coverings, Kimball, a Seattle native who had temporarily moved back to his hometown during the Broadway shutdown, tweeted, “Respectfully, I will never allow a Governor, or anyone, to stop me from SINGING, let alone sing in worship to my God. Folks, absolute POWER corrupts ABSOLUTELY. This is not about safety. It’s about POWER. I will respectfully disobey these unlawful orders.”
Kimball’s declaration to “respectfully disobey” the safety protocols was greeted with a fierce backlash among a Broadway community all but shattered by Covid and the industry shutdown, and he subsequently clarified that he was opposed to the prohibition of congregation singing, not to the mask requirement.
The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court by Kimball’s attorney Lawrence Spasojevich, says that following Kimball’s tweet on Nov. 15, 2020, he was “forced to explain and defend” his comments to the producers. On Jan. 22, 2021, the suit claims, Kimball was told that he would not be invited back to the show when it reopened because the “production needed to focus on bringing the show back together and ensure people’s safety.”
The suit also alleges that one of the show’s producers suggested to Kimball that the “events at the Capitol, Josh Hawley, and the Conservative Christian movement were tied together and implied a connection between Mr. Kimball, by virtue of his faith, to the ideas and actions of the January 6, 2021 events at the U.S. Capitol.”
Kimball’s suit further claims that the actor spoke to Come From Away director Christopher Ashley and “directly asked Mr. Ashley if his termination was based upon alleged disagreement with the cast and crew or because of his religious faith,” to which Ashley, the suit says, responded “everything.”
The producers of Come From Away, doing business as Kiss The Cod Broadway Limited Partnership, declined comment on the lawsuit when contacted by Deadline today.
Come From Away returned to Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on September 21. All Broadway venues require audience members and theater workers to be fully vaccinated. Audiences must wear masks during performances.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, lost wages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and says Kimball has suffered significant economic and professional harm, emotional and physical pain and suffering including “severe emotional trauma, depression, illness, hopelessness and anxiety, loss of confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, and other irreparable harm resulting from the strain of employment controversies caused by Defendants and/or Defendants’ agents and/or employees.”
To be clear: nobody is going maskless. The overreach – in my opinion! – is not being able to sing even WITH a mask. No singing WITH a mask ON. Everyone will continue wearing masks. With respect and with hope and with care.
— Chad Kimball (@chadkimball1) November 16, 2020