Big break

For­mer Char­lot­te­town Fes­ti­val ac­tress re­ceives amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as the lead in ‘Beau­ti­ful, the Ca­role King Mu­si­cal’, cur­rently on Broad­way in New York City

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE

For­mer Char­lot­te­town Fes­ti­val ac­tress re­ceives amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as the lead in “Beau­ti­ful, the Ca­role King Mu­si­cal”, cur­rently on Broad­way in New York City.

Ac­tress Chilina Kennedy has felt the earth move un­der her feet sev­eral times in the past year.

That’s be­cause the Cana­dian ac­tress has ex­pe­ri­enced some ground-shak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in con­nec­tion with the lead role in “Beau­ti­ful, the Ca­role King Mu­si­cal” cur­rently play­ing at the Stephen Sond­heim The­ater in New York City.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble. It’s truly a dream come true. And I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing. It’s sim­ply the best job in the world,” says Kennedy, who has been in the Broad­way show since last April and who is well known to P.E.I. au­di­ences for her por­trayal of the Evangeline in the pre­miere of Ted Dyk­stra’s epic mu­si­cal in 2013 at Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts.

Filled with num­bers from the leg­endary singer-song­writer’s song book, in­clud­ing It’s Too Late, You’ve Got a Friend and Will You Love Me To­mor­row, this Broad­way mu­si­cal tells the story of Ca­role King and her re­mark­able rise to star­dom, from be­ing part of a hit song­writ­ing team with her hus­band, Gerry Gof­fin, to her re­la­tion­ship with fel­low writ­ers and best friends Cyn­thia Weil and Barry Mann, to be­com­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful solo acts in pop­u­lar mu­sic his­tory. It also tells about her per­sonal life, the highs and the heart­breaks.

Be­sides the ap­plause and stand­ing ova­tions the show gets nightly, the earth most re­cently moved for Kennedy when she was in­vited to an­chor and nar­rate the Kennedy Cen­tre Hon­ours for Ca­role King broad­cast on CBS, Dec. 29.

The event, which took place in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., was at­tended by some of the world’s top per­form­ers, pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors, as well as the pres­i­dent and first lady of the United States.

“Ob­vi­ously, there was a lot of pres­sure be­cause I wanted to do jus­tice to Ca­role’s ca­reer and her life. But, it was in­cred­i­ble. It was one of the most in­cred­i­ble artis­tic ex­pe­ri­ences of my life, so far,” says Kennedy,

As an an­chor, it was her job to in­tro­duce an­other mu­si­cal icon who sang King’s hit song, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Nat­u­ral Woman.

“A lot of the guest stars were sur­prises. The honouree gives the Kennedy Cen­ter a wish list of peo­ple that they would love to see per­form. And who­ever


comes is a sur­prise. “So when I an­nounced Aretha Franklin, the house went wild. They weren’t ex­pect­ing that. Her per­for­mance was out­stand­ing. So it was kind of the big mo­ment of the evening.”

Then, if that wasn’t enough ex­cite­ment, Kennedy was in­vited to join James Tay­lor and Franklin on stage in the clos­ing num­ber, I Feel the Earth Move.

“I was just so in­cred­i­bly hon­oured to have a solo along­side th­ese in­cred­i­ble artists. To in­tro­duce Franklin was amaz­ing. Then, to be able to stand be­side her and riff with her was in­cred­i­ble.”

Adam Bra­zier, who played op­po­site to Kennedy as Gabriel in the 2013 pro­duc­tion of “Evangeline”, is not sur­prised at her re­cent per­for­mance gigs.

“Chilina is a rare tal­ent that is both vul­ner­a­ble and fear­less. She has the ca­pac­ity to sing any score but, more im­por­tantly, she has the abil­ity to think through any role. From Maria in “West Side Story” to Evita, from Evangeline to Carol King, Chilina Kennedy will ex­cel,” says Bra­zier, artis­tic di­rec­tor, Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts.

An­other amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Kennedy was get­ting to meet the mu­sic icon.

“I got an email from Carol King last April. She said, ‘Do you want me to tell you when I’m com­ing to see the show?’ I wrote back, ‘Dear Miss King: please do not tell me when you’re com­ing be­cause I will fall over from a heart at­tack’,” says Kennedy, with a laugh.

King re­spected the ac­tor’s wishes, only in­di­cat­ing that she would be com­ing some­time that month.

“She dressed up in a wig and glasses and sur­prised us. And she was fan­tas­tic. I also saw her mul­ti­ple times af­ter that be­cause we did a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view and per­for­mance for the To­day Show and there were re­hearsals.

“Then, of course, I spoke with her af­ter the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ours event. That night we had din­ner at the Kennedy Cen­ter, so we got to talk to her then. She’s re­ally a won­der­ful woman.”


Chilina Kennedy ap­pears as Ca­role King in “Beau­ti­ful, the Ca­role King Mu­si­cal” on Broad­way at the Stephen Sond­heim The­ater in New York.


Chilina Kennedy, left, ap­pears in a scene with Jes­sica Keenan Wynn, Jar­rod Spec­tor and Scott J. Camp­bell in “Beau­ti­ful - The Ca­role King Mu­si­cal”.


Chilina Kennedy, left, per­forms I Feel the Earth Move with James Tay­lor and Aretha Franklin dur­ing the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ours for Ca­role King in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. last month.

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