Beau­ti­ful Soul

Fashion (Canada) - - Culture Index - —M.C.

Two years ago, the stars aligned for Chilina Kennedy. Af­ter cut­ting her teeth at the Shaw and Strat­ford fes­ti­vals on this side of the bor­der, the Cana­dian mu­si­cal theatre star earned the role of a life­time play­ing Ca­role King on Broad­way in Beau­ti­ful: The Ca­role King Mu­si­cal. More im­por­tantly, she won the cov­eted part while nine months preg­nant and re­ceived a bless­ing from King her­self. This sum­mer, Kennedy re­turns home from New York for a short run of the mu­si­cal, from June 27 to Au­gust 20, by Mirvish Pro­duc­tions, at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre. Beau­ti­ful chron­i­cles the early part of King’s life and ca­reer as a song­writer— when she penned songs with then-hus­band Gerry Gof­fin and worked along­side best friends and fel­low writ­ers Cyn­thia Weil and Barry Mann—and leads up to the re­lease of her ground­break­ing 1971 al­bum, Ta­pes­try. The mu­si­cal fea­tures hits like “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Nat­u­ral Woman,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “I Feel the Earth Move”—songs that have im­printed them­selves on pop cul­ture.

It was an in­tim­i­dat­ing role for Kennedy, be­cause she was not only tak­ing over from Jessie Mueller, who nabbed a Tony for the role, but also por­tray­ing a liv­ing leg­end. “Every­body I know is a fan of Ca­role King,” she says. “[The mu­si­cal is] rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a time and mu­sic that peo­ple are so con­nected to. It was a lot to live up to.” De­spite the chal­lenge, it was a role Kennedy rel­ished; she stud­ied King by watch­ing in­ter­views and lis­ten­ing to her body of work. “You don’t want to do a Satur­day Night Live im­pres­sion of Ca­role King,” she says.

“It’s im­por­tant to em­body her spirit and her sound, be­cause she does have a spe­cific way of jump­ing into things, whether it’s a conversation or a song. She’s got so much chutz­pah, love, guts and cre­ativ­ity, and it’s this thing that comes at you, and it’s beau­ti­ful.”

Kennedy has al­ready had a few pinch-me mo­ments, in­clud­ing when King at­tended a per­for­mance. (“She came over and gave me a big hug, and we had a re­ally beau­ti­ful mo­ment to­gether. It was one of the best mo­ments of my life.”) How­ever, there’s still a lot more she wants to do, in­clud­ing roles she’d like to play (like Guin­e­vere in Camelot) and a sec­ond al­bum she hopes to record. In the mean­time, she’s ex­cited for Toronto au­di­ences to en­joy the show she has been liv­ing and breath­ing for the past two years.

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