Tomorrow is going to be one fine day because Chilina Kennedy, who’s playing Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in Toronto, is taking over BroadwayWorld’s Instagram Story! Make sure to tune in to go behind-the-scenes of the hit musical for a two-show day at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It’s sure to be some kind of wonderful that you won’t want to miss!
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Chilina Kennedy, who’s currently portraying Carole King, in the musical talks about what it’s like to become the iconic musician. See Chilina on the Global News – The Morning Show.
See it here: https://bit.ly/2Dopp15
The long-running hit Broadway musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical follows the relationship between Carole King and her husband and writing partner, Gerry Goffin, through the couple’s indelible music. In Act II, audiences are treated to several hits off of Carole King’s iconic, Grammy-winning 1971 album Tapestry. Recently, Beautiful leading lady Chilina Kennedy and guitarist Freddy Hall dropped by the studio to perform an acoustic version of a Goffin and King collaboration that isn’t featured in the stage musical, the folk favorite “Smackwater Jack”. To hear Chilina sing more of Carole King’s epic music catalog, hurry to see Beautiful at Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
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.”
Eight times a week at New York’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Chilina Kennedy belts out the Carole King hit, “Natural Woman”. Kennedy is, after all, playing the iconic hitmaker in the Broadway musical Beautiful. As we arranged this interview, however, Chilina’s packing her bags for a few days off, at least from her Broadway gig.
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About a year ago, Chilina decided to start a theatre company back home in Toronto. On Wednesday, March March 6th, 2019, Eclipse Theatre premieres a daring new production of the musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman. The show isn’t in a traditional theatre, however. It takes it’s bow in the historic Don Jail. Yup, with all the cells, iron bars, and even solitary confinement.
Before we talk Kiss, tell us about Eclipse, what it means to you, and why you decided to start a theatre company.
CK: I have always wanted to be a part of a new theatre company and forming Eclipse was also a great way to stay connected to my Canadian theatre community in a meaningful way. I love developing new work and fostering new ideas and talent. I also like to support partnerships between companies and across borders.
Is this something you always expected to do?
Never! Especially as an Artistic Producer. But I hoped one day I’d be creating new work in Canada.
Your production of Kiss of the Spider Woman takes the audience out of the comforts of a theatre into a historic jail. What was it like stepping into that space for the first time?
It was magical. It was also dark and made me think deeply about what it must have been like for inmates who were incarcerated there. Mounting the show in that space was our director Evan Tsitsias’ idea and it struck me as one of the most inspired creative moments I’ve experienced.
Because I believe theatre needs to be brave and exciting and we need to take risks as theatre makers. I want to give the public opportunities to get lost in not only the story, but to also feel completely captivated and immersed in the space itself, as if it was a character on it own.
You’ve worked with, and met, some incredible icons. But if you sit down for coffee with absolutely anyone in the world, who would it be, and what would you want to ask them?
That’s a tough one. There are so many! I would want to sit down with Joni Mitchell probably. I’m a huge fan of her work and her commitment to her art. I’d like to ask her questions about her life as a whole.
Any advice for others who want to make the jump into producing and creating their own experiences?
Do it. You may not know how to do it, but do it anyway, especially if you’re passionate about a project. And surround yourself with people who are smart and good at what they do so you can learn from them.
You’re a total Broadway veteran. What would you say that you love about Beautifulthat’s unique to this particular show?
“I love the message of this show. It is powerful and positive. It’s a love story and also a story about forgiveness. I feel uplifted at the end of every performance and that doesn’t happen with every show.”
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Your schedule must be grueling. What are your favorite ways to prepare for each performance, and how do you wind down after curtain call?
“I find new ways to prep for my show every day. Sometimes I do a lot of prep and sometimes just a little, depending on how I feel that day. Music is often a great way in and I almost always do a physical warm up to connect to my body. Sometimes silence and stillness is what I need. After the show I like to go home and have some quiet time.”
What are your favorite fresh products, and why?
“I love all fresh products but the deodorant and the scents have been my favorites over the years!”
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Perseverance. And to try not to compare myself to others. To be myself.”
What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in her acting career?
“Probably the same advice. Stick with it. Especially if it’s something you really want to do. And stay loving and positive towards yourself and others.”
What career accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
“Probably my Theater Company in Toronto. It’s brand new and it takes a lot of work but I’m very proud of it. I also wrote a musical, which is having its 3rd reading here in the city. That makes me feel very brave and fearless.”
Can you tell us about women who inspire you?
“Well, aside from Carole King, there are so many! I’m inspired by many women. It’s always the kind of women who persevere, sometimes quietly, that touch me the deepest. Jane Goodall has always been a big role model. Greta Thunberg is wonderful. Incredibly smart and brave.”
What’s a mantra that you try to live by every day?
“To be kind and compassionate. And to keep breathing.”
Can you tell us about a particularly challenging moment that you’ve had in your career? How did you handle it, and what did it teach you?
“I’ve faced some rejection, and that always feels awful. I took some time to sit quietly with my sadness. Then I actively let go of the event and allowed it to make me both tough and vulnerable. You need both of those qualities in this business.”
What’s something that you’re looking forward to in your career—a role you’ve yet to play, a venue you’ve yet to perform at?
“The Lincoln Center. Carnegie Hall. There are so many roles I’ve yet to play and shows I’d like to write, to direct. I’d love to see my son perform someday.”
We asked, you answered: Our followers shared with us the women in theatre who inspire them. In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked our Instagram followers to share with us the women in theatre who inspire them. Their answers ranged from performers to directors to lighting designers, and everything in-between.
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Book by Terrence McNally, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, based on the novel by Manuel Puig, directed by Evan Tsitsias, choreography by Sara-Jeanne Hosie. Until March 10 at the Don Jail, 550 Gerrard St. E. Eclipsetheatre.ca.
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Starting with the nitty-gritty: this is a review of a show you’re not going to be able to see unless you already have tickets. This new production of the famed prison-set musical is running for seven performances only and is sold out.
Its popularity is doubtless due to the combined interest of the unusual setting — it’s staged in the rotunda of the former Don Jail with seating for only 80-100 spectators; the appeal of the material, which won seven 1993 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Book, and Score; and the profile of the upstart outfit that’s producing it — Eclipse Theatre Company, founded by experienced theatre professionals Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Evan Tsitsias and the musical-theatre star Chilina Kennedy. They launched Eclipse last year to incubate new musicals and stage existing ones, adding to the burgeoning of musical theatre in Toronto and Canada that also includes the expansion of Musical Stage Company and the global success of Come from Away.
As the company’s first effort, it’s a mixed bag. John Kander’s score is thrilling, beautifully played by a six-person band under Chris Barillaro’s musical direction. The lead performers — Kawa Ada, Tracy Michailidis, and Jonathan Winsby — are great musical talents and sing their roles expertly.
It’s also a reminder of the improbable brilliance of repurposing Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel about the dialogue between two Argentinian cellmates during the Dirty War as a musical (it’s also been made into a film and a play). Molina (Ada) is a gay department store window dresser picked up for soliciting a minor and harassed in prison for his sexuality; Valentin (Winsby) is a Marxist revolutionary involved in a plot to overthrow the government. To keep himself on the rails, Molina fantasizes about beloved B-movies featuring the imagined diva Aurora (Michailidis). Where the brilliance comes in is that these imaginings become musical numbers, their florid excess offsetting the violence and deprivation of prison life.
This is where the conceptual wobbliness of Eclipse’s version — billed a staged concert production — comes in. The choice of the Don Jail as venue was driven by its resonance with the material but the physical realities of the site don’t fully serve the enterprise (production design is by Nick Blais). An initial tour through the old corridors and cells lends some scary atmosphere: cast members wander amongst the spectators and we can hear shrieks elsewhere in the building. The rotunda staging area provides a very limited playing space with some distracting obstacles: the refurbished jail is now partly an art gallery, so that Ada and Winsby play their cell-bound scenes between two modernist sculptures. Adding incongruity, the cell furniture is a number of shiny contemporary chairs on and around which director Tsitsias has awkwardly blocked the action.
Some scenes are played out on two balconies running around the rotunda; the band sits off to the side on the first level. Tsitsias puts this to good use in action involving the prison Warden (Alejandro Ampudia), who lords over the prisoners below. The cast features a 13-member ensemble (all but one musical theatre students at Sheridan College) who play prisoners, lurking on the balconies, something that initially adds to the atmosphere but becomes a distraction. The male chorus members also become backup dancers in the fantasy numbers, and while they’ve clearly got terrific skill and training, their capacity to deliver Hosie’s ambitious choreography suffers from the lack of space. The female chorus members have punishingly little to do, one of several aspects of the material and production that feel dated in terms of representation of gendered and sexual identities.
A rationale for fully staging the musical numbers is that they’re at the heart of the show, but it could conversely be argued that a scaled-back approach would contribute to the celebration-of-the-imagination theme and dovetail better with the design approach. That’s in essence what happens in the second-act opening number “Russian Movie/Good Times” in which Valentin gets on board with Molina’s storytelling and Michailidis camps it up delightfully as a Russian film heroine (“summon my troika!”). The audience is drawn into the imaginative act and the performers’ energy is compellingly focused, unlike some of the bigger numbers in which the exuberant staging, the limited space, and the sombre environment clash.
The central performances and relationships have strength but also feel like they are still coming into focus. Ada is fully emotionally switched on in the role made famous in by Brent Carver (who played it in the 1992 Toronto world premiere as well as in the West End and on Broadway, where he won a Tony). Ada has a delicate, regal quality of movement and speech which makes sense up to a point: maintaining his decorum and rising above the prison brutality is one of Molina’s survival mechanisms. But it’s hard for the audience to read what the character is experiencing internally as the Warden pressures him to inform on Valentin, with whom he is falling in love.
In setting the mood for a new Toronto production of “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” about two men in a prison cell, the creators didn’t have to look much further than the space around them — the former Don Jail.
See article here: https://goo.gl/oMmEcd
Running Wednesday through Sunday at the historic site, the musical from the new Toronto-based Eclipse Theatre Company (ETC) is meant to be an immersive experience set in a venue that once housed judicial hangings and infamous criminals including the Boyd Gang, who broke out of the jail twice.
“It’s definitely creepy, and a little sad as well,” ETC co-creator and artistic producer Chilina Kennedy said in a phone interview from New York, where the Oromocto, N.B.-born stage star has the lead role in Broadway’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
“Some awful things happened in that jail, so there’s a lot of history there, but it’s also very beautiful. They’ve turned it into an art gallery, it’s a heritage site. I don’t think they get nearly enough people in there or know about it, so hopefully this will also bring more people to the jail and maybe spark some interest in the building.”
Based on the novel by Manuel Puig, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” centres around a gay window dresser imprisoned during Argentina’s Dirty War who, in order to escape his dark reality, shares stories about a glamorous actress with the Marxist revolutionary he’s locked up with.
ETC co-creator Evan Tsitsias directs the production that’s billed as the first theatrical event ever produced at the Don Jail. The cast includes Kawa Ada, Tracy Michailidis, and Jonathan Winsby.
“Because it is an actual prison space, we couldn’t ask for more atmosphere,” said Toronto-born Tsitsias, who is ETC’s artistic director.
“We don’t need a lot, because just bodies in that space already animate it in a beautiful way.”
The jail is located on the new Bridgepoint Active Healthcare Campus and has been restored as an administration building. But it still contains original features, including prison cells.
Audience members will get a tour of the facility before being seated to watch the show in a rotunda with two balconies — an area that seats between 80-100 patrons.
The show is part of ETC’s mandate to create events where the nature of the venue dictates which production will be staged within it.
Such partnerships showcase Toronto landmarks and help offset the huge expenses involved in putting on a show, said Kennedy and Tsitsias, whose other co-creator at ETC is executive director Sara-Jeanne Hosie.
“Shakespeare used to put on plays all the time without anything other than the sunlight and a bunch of really great actors,” said Kennedy.
“So as long as there are great actors and a great audience, you’ve got theatre. And then on top of it, you’ve got an incredible location with all of this history and energy around it, and then also some great lighting and beautiful music.”
The story in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” resonates as much now as when the novel was first written in 1985, added Tsitsias.
“It is about change and revolution and also personal revolutions, not just political revolutions, which is what everyone seems to be going through right now in the world. It’s an amazing story about these two men who are forced to come together with completely opposing views and then, through communication, learn to change and through that change, learn to love each other.
“As a gay man myself, I am drawn to the character Molina and his struggles and how relevant they are now as they were back then; how you think things change but actually how cyclical it is, and how those rights and what happened to those LGBTQ characters back then and people back then are still happening now in parts of the world.”