Toronto native Chilina Kennedy will celebrate a milestone, playing her 1,000th performance as music icon Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, March 14. The multi-talented actor is currently starring in the Broadway production of that award-winning musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, but she also played Grammy winner King in the touring production of Beautiful and in her hometown of Toronto. Kennedy, who made her Broadway debut as Mary Magdalene in Des McAnuff's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar, has also been seen in the national tour of Mamma Mia!, the Toronto debut of Lord of the Rings, and regional productions of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Evangeline.
We recently asked the acclaimed actor to pen a list of her most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.
Carole King attends Beautiful
The night Carole came to see our show and surprised us backstage was unforgettable. She came in disguise, and she was incredibly gracious and kind. She played piano for us and told stories. The way Carole plays is very unique, and sitting beside her, watching her hands and body move, gave me real insight into her as a musician.
The Kennedy Center Honors honoring Carole King
The night I did The Kennedy Center Honors and played Carole. I got to meet and work with Sara Bareilles, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, and Janelle Monáe. I also got to meet President Obama and the First Lady. Unbelievable. There was a moment when we were all backstage watching Aretha Franklin’s incredible performance. I suddenly panicked because I couldn’t remember what the next bit of staging was. James Taylor couldn’t remember either, so he graciously took my hand and we went out together.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice take in Jesus Christ Superstar
The night Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice came to see our production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Stratford was pretty amazing. They were very kind and spoke to us as a group onstage. There is a wonderful picture of Paul Nolan, Josh Young, and I walking upstage with Tim Rice.
My son attends Beautiful
When my son came to see me for the first time in Beautiful. He’s three-and-a-half, and he was very quiet. He loves the show. He sat in the sound booth with his dad and was mesmerized.
Lord of the Rings in Toronto
Opening night of the Lord of the Rings in Toronto was unforgettable. It was a huge party, and we had such a blast onstage and off. The show was not a commercial success, but it was one of the most influential and satisfying artistic experiences I’ve had. Getting to help create the piece with masters like Matthew Warchus and Peter Darling was very special.