Canadian actor looks forward to coming home in the role for a second time after four years on Broadway.
It is a good time to be a Canadian in New York but, despite that, there is nothing like coming home.
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That’s how Chilina Kennedy feels: the New Brunswick-born, Ontario-trained actor and singer has been playing Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for four years on Broadway and returns to Toronto in the role from April 9 to May 5 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It’s her second time here with the musical, following a four-month stint in 2017.
“It’s exciting because this was a surprise; I didn’t think I would be coming back. To be honest with you, I’ve been a little homesick lately,” she said on the line from New York. “I love New York and I love this show. I love doing the show in New York, but the chance to come home for four whole weeks without interruption is really, really good.”
Kennedy can’t wait to spend some time with friends and family, and tuck into a spot of brunch at the Senator, which is one of her must-dos whenever she gets home.
Beautiful tells the story of King and features many of her No. 1 hits, but it is more than a jukebox musical as it tells the story of working with her husband, Gerry Goffin, and their relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
“The reason this show is special is I think there are two times when people break out into song in typical musical fashion; the rest of the time the songs are being written as we are going, so the audience is seeing those four writers coming up with the songs and how the collaboration happens,” Kennedy says. “I do think that is unique. But the music is extraordinary. The music, in and of itself, is reason enough to see the show.”
Kennedy says she’s grateful to the New York production of Beautiful, as it has allowed her to be flexible over the past four years, giving her time off to work on other projects as well as come to Toronto for these runs.
One of her side projects includes launching the Eclipse Theatre Company, which recently put on its first production, a sold-out run of Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Don Jail.
“It is going fantastically well. We launched out of the gate with Kiss of the Spider Woman at the jail, which was a bold way to begin, and I’m really proud of what we did,” she says.
“The reaction was phenomenal, so now we’re working on all of our other projects. I’ve written a show that we’re developing and we’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire, and a partnership with Crow’s Theatre happening next year, so there’s a lot to look forward to.”
Kennedy’s own show, Call It Love, is one she is working on with Eric Holmes (a producer on The Good Fight) and renowned musical director Rick Fox, who is handling the arrangements. That will be have its third reading soon and she expects to bring it to Toronto eventually for some more work.
But thanks to Come From Away and the current political climate, Kennedy says it is a very good time to be Canadian on the Great White Way.
“There is sort of this fad for all things Canadian lately. There is one producer who has been advising us since the beginning and he can’t get enough of Canadian pieces,” she says.
“I find that spirit, that support is really exciting. I mean I haven’t experienced that before, in that kind of intensity. A lot of what is coming out of our country is exciting and daring,” she says.
“It represents the sort of left-of-centre ideals that a lot of people have in this country, which is the opposite of what Trump is. I hate to make things political, but it really is very much black and white here. So certain people are embracing the left of centre, and Canada they lump into that. I’m not sure if it’s really true, but that’s how it is perceived.”