Women like Chilina Kennedy are blazing new trails on Broadway. While founding a new theater company and developing her own show, she is also playing Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical eight times a week. Add the role of Mom to her already packed schedule and you’ll understand why she redefines what it means to be a “Natural Woman.”
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in theater?
I was four and I am not exaggerating. People are like “really, is that true?” My mom used to talk about when she was pregnant with me, she would play guitar. I am sure a lot of babies move around and rest against the vibration of the guitar and like ever since I came out of the womb, I was singing and dancing and it’s all I really ever wanted to do. I went to dance classes and started playing piano since I was four. I just loved it. So it really is kind of the only thing I ever wanted to do.
What is it like to play Carole King, who is such an iconic person on Broadway?
Oh, it’s incredible. I mean, I have played the role now for about over a thousand times. It’s maybe 1,100 times and just does not get old. I love it. I learn something new all the time. It’s hard to play somebody who is still alive and especially somebody who – I mean, listen, like everybody that I speak to is a fan of Carole King. They know every word to the Tapestry album and people have a great reverence for her. Gloria Steinem talks about her being the first female composer to give a downbeat. She paved the way for other women in her industry so there is a lot of pressure that comes with playing her because she has got a very unique way and sound and songwriting style. I think it’s important to be accurate about that, because that’s what people want to hear and see. Then of course, I have got to also make it my own. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s one that I love to do.
What is your favorite Carole King song that you get to perform?
I go through different ones all the time. Sometimes it’s “Natural Woman: and sometimes it’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” It depends, because those songs come in different parts of the show, they carry different kinds of weights to them. “Natural Woman” is what I view as coming into her own skin as not just a songwriter, but also a singer. So it’s got some gravitas to it. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is a very romantic time in her and Gerry’s marriage where they were very, very much in love with each other, so it’s an intimate and beautiful moment in the show.