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Wednesday, 08 February 2017 16:35

Chilina Comes Home

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Chilina Kennedy Brings Her Hit Performance as Carole King to Toronto

Canada’s Broadway Star Headlines National Tour’s Toronto stop of “Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical.”

She chats with Song & Script

By Dennis Kucherawy

In her 1959 hit song, Carole King claimed “I Didn’t Have Any Summer Romance.”

Well, Chilina Kennedy is ready to be embraced big-time this summer as many of her fans… current and about to be …

are excited, waiting for her with open arms.  After all, she left Canada as a Stratford, Shaw and Drayton Festival veteran; she is now returning as a star of the Great White Way.

 

With Canada Day July 1st just five days after the opening, what a marvelous way to celebrate our Sesquicentennial with the homecoming of one of our greatest musical theatre stars!  “One Fine Day” indeed!

Chilina’s final Broadway performance for now is on Sunday, March 5th.  She intends to take a few months off, relaxing, sailing and enjoying time with her son, Henry, and husband, acting veteran Jacob James in the house they own in Stratford, On.

Before returning to Carole King’s world of rock ‘n’ roll, she will sing this spring with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall.  It’s “The Best of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” a concert featuring a song from each of the 11 Broadway musicals they wrote consisting of “The Sound of Music,” “Carousel,” “Oklahoma!,” “The King & I” and rarely performed musicals “Cinderella’ and “Flower Drum Song.”  A song from “South Pacific” also will be featured, inspiring memories of May 2014 when Kennedy starred as Nelly Forbush in Drayton Festival’s hit production.

Steven Reineke conducts.  Chilina is joined by vocalist Ryan Silverman.  Also performing will be the Amabile Choirs of London.

Three performances of the program will be presented on Tuesday, April 18th, with two on Wednesday, April 19th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Starring in “Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical” for nearly two years, this native of New Brunswick has for eight shows a week sung her heart out with such passion that New Yorkers have now learned what we in Canada have known for years:  What a talented and entertaining triple threat performer she is!

For almost nine weeks in Toronto beginning on Tuesday, June 27th, Chilina will deliver her performance that continues to contribute to a weekly Broadway box office gross that continues to surpass $1 million just as her predecessor, 2014 Tony Award-winning Jessie Mueller, did.

“(Kennedy’s) a fine performer,” wrote New York Post critic Elisabeth Vincentelli, “almost too good at times.  King wasn’t a sophisticated singer.”

She praised Chilina’s acting, how she portrayed the arc of Carole King’s evolution from a timid teenager to independent woman, mother and artist.  “There’s never any doubt that Carole is going to be just fine,” she wrote.

Actually, “Beautiful’s” casting director Stephen Kopel considered Kennedy for the lead from the beginning, reported the Wall St. Journal.  He originally invited her to audition for the role even before he had cast Jessie Mueller.  But Chilina was already committed to the musical “Evangeline” at the Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island.

When Mueller won the Tony, then decided to leave the show, Kopel called Chilina, but she was 33 weeks pregnant with her son, Henry (now two years old.)  She auditioned anyway, reading four scenes and singing three songs: “It Might as Well Rain Until September,” “Beautiful” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

They sent a videotape of her audition to Carole King who gave her final approval.

Chilina also had her eye on the role, she told S&S in an e-mail interview.  “It was something I had had in the back of my head from the moment I heard about the show,” she said.  “If there was ever to be a Toronto production or a tour to Toronto, I wanted to be on board.”

Chilina made her debut on March 7th, 2015.  Now, she will give her final performance until August at the Stephen Sondheim theatre on Sunday, March 5th, just before her second anniversary.  Abbie Mueller, Jessie’s sister, who has played the lead in the national touring company, will take over until Chilina returns following her final Toronto performance Sunday, Aug. 20th.

(Abbie performed with the tour in nearby Buffalo at Shea’s Performing Arts Centre last March, 14 months ago.)

There’s a lot more as you’ll see in our email conversation with Chilina Kennedy:

Was it tough to leave New York and Broadway?  Was it easier knowing that you would return after Toronto?

It is absolutely easier knowing that I'm coming back. New York has become my home over the last two years and I've had a wonderful time here. But it's also good to have a change sometimes and come home. Coming home always makes me appreciate being away and being away makes me miss home so it's good to have a balance.

What does it mean to you to play such a legendary character in such a successful musical back on your home turf?  I think the last time you played here was the Stratford Festival’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and, of course, in nearby Hamilton, MARY POPPINS and in SOUTH PACIFIC at the Drayton Festival.

It means a lot to come home with this show in particular. A lot of Canadians have made it down to see the Broadway show but many of my friends and family haven't been able to get there.

Carole King's story is truly remarkable and I think Toronto audiences will love the show. The album “Tapestry” (which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide) means a lot to many people and the period of time over which those songs were written has made a lasting impact. I think Toronto audiences will love finding out how the songs came to exist and why they became so popular.

Has being in New York given you other opportunities?  Do you audition for films and TV shows?

It's given me many opportunities. Because I am still working on my green card, my ability to do other projects has been limited. But even so, I have gotten to meet Carole King several times and perform with her on the Today Show. I got to perform at the Kennedy Center Honors and meet President Obama and the First Lady (who I met again at an event I did for her.) I've met celebrities and artists I admire greatly who have come to see the show, including Paul McCartney, Robert De Niro and Ted Danson. I've also gotten to do readings and workshops of new shows. It's been an absolutely incredible experience in all ways and I feel very fortunate.

Any personal plans?  Are you working on a new CD?

I am, actually! I'm working on a few new projects, all of which I feel very passionately about. It will be nice to have the time to dig in to them.

Have you been in touch with Carole King?  Have you seen her since that wonderful tribute in which you participated in Washington at the Kennedy Centre for the Arts last year?

She was actually honored by the City of New York after one of our shows on our stage not too long ago. So I saw her then and I had a great chat with her after she received the honor in front of a packed house. She is always incredibly gracious and warm.

You will be approaching your second anniversary in March playing Carole this March, right?  What has it meant to you performing… and living … in New York?  It must be stressful at times given the new President in office.

I can't believe it! Performing and living in NY can be very stressful and I think the trick is to be tough enough to handle the city, but vulnerable enough to do your job every night. And yes, with a hot political climate comes some challenges but the Broadway community is a family. We stick up for each other and stay together, no matter our differences.

See Chilina perform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRGDRBkpIbY

-       Chilina Kennedy, Highlights, “Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5IGK3IXk2k

-       Chilina Kennedy, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Ticket Information:

Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical

Visit www.mirvish.com to purchase tickets including group sales.

Dates:     June 27th to Aug. 20th

Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly The Pantages Theatre)

CD and Songbook Information:

The show’s Grammy Award-winning original Broadway cast CD (2015 – Best Musical Theatre album) and the album’s songbook, are available at Song & Script.

So are Chilina Kennedy’s solo folk-pop CD “What You Find in a Bottle,” arranged by former Stratford Music Director Rick Fox, and the Charlottetown Festival original cast CD of its 2013 musical “Evangeline,” in which Chilina created the title role.

Ticket information:  The Best of Rodgers & Hammerstein

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Roy Thomson Hall

Visit www.tso.ca or call 416-598-3375.

Tracks:

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical CD

Original Broadway Cast Recording

1.  Overture

2.  So Far Away

3.  1650 Broadway Medley

4.  It Might as Well Rain Until September

5.  Some Kind of Wonderful

6.  Happy Days Are Here Again (Cynthia Weill)

7.  Take Good Care of My Baby

8.  Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

9.  He’s Sure the Boy I Love (Cynthia Weill, Barry Mann)

10.       Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles)

11.       Up on the Roof (The Drifters)

12.       On Broadway (The Drifters)

13.       The Locomotion (Little Eva, Ensemble)

14.       You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

15.       One Fine Day

16.       Chains

17.       Walking in the Rain

18.       Pleasant Valley Sunday

19.       We Gotta Get Out of This Place

20.       Uptown

21.       It’s Too Late

22.       You’ve Got a Friend

23.       (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

24.       Beautiful

25.       I Feel the Earth Move

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 February 2017 17:07
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