After an epic run (over 1,000 performances!) as Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, stage favorite Chilina Kennedy (Jesus Christ Superstar, Mamma Mia!) is now leading the first national tour of David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ The Band’s Visit. Kennedy plays Dina, a cafe owner who arranges housing for the titular band members who are stranded in the Israeli desert, in the road production of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, which is currently playing the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto through October 20. Broadway.com recently spoke with Kennedy about touring across North America in the acclaimed musical, how audiences have been responding to the show and where she looks for creative inspiration.
What’s the very best part about taking The Band’s Visit to theatergoers across the country?
I love getting to see the reactions from different and diverse communities across the U.S. It is unifying to see how affected people are by this simple story. They are all touched by it in their own way.
Why excites you most about playing Dina? How does playing her challenge you and, on the flip side, how does it reward you?
Dina has some scars and baggage, so diving into her every day can be challenging. The way her relationship with Tewfiq melts some of that hardness is the biggest reward, along with singing David Yazbek’s layered and haunting score.
I know it’s probably hard to choose, and it even might change from night to night, but what’s your favorite moment to play on-stage in this show?
It’s hard to pick one! I love singing “Omar Sharif.” I also love the humor in the show, so it’s fun to dig into some of the earlier moments in the show when the band first arrives at Dina’s cafe.
How have audiences been reacting to this show? What’s something you’ve learned about this show because of/through a theatergoer’s response?
Adam Gabai (who plays Papi in the show) told a story yesterday about a man waiting at the stage door after the show. When he saw Adam, who is from Israel, he shared that he was Egyptian and they hugged each other. This isn’t a show about politics or ideology, it’s about human connection. We have the power to connect people with this story, to rise above lines drawn in the sand and that is very beautiful to me.
What about this experience has surprised you the most, thus far?
I am always surprised at my own response to the story. I am moved every night in a different way by a different part of the show. I am also floored by how deeply the audience responds to it, no matter where we are playing.
Who or what continues to inspire you most as an artist and why?
Our band is made up of world class musicians and they continually inspire me. They are always learning, always practicing and doing outside gigs. I also try to fuel myself by going to art galleries, concerts and experiencing every city as fully as I can.
As you know, seeing live theater is a unique, exceptional, and rewarding experience. Why should people seek out The Band’s Visit when it comes close to their city?
They should seek it out because there is nothing like it on Broadway or anywhere else. It is an entirely unique and beautiful experience.
Of the many things you do, which one makes your heart beat the fastest?
Introducing my son to music and theater is very exciting. Also performing at concerts and sharing music from The Band’s Visit at press events is fun. I love experiencing the audience or press’s reaction to the music for the first time.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read, seen or listened to recently?
The galleries in Washington, D.C. were phenomenal. I am starting to watch HBO’s Our Boys, starring Adam Gabai, which is a wonderful and thought-provoking series. I am also working on my own new show so that keeps me busy.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to spend time with friends and family, explore the city I’m in, eat great food and stay active. Also, I like to always have a book on the go.
What city have you enjoyed the most, so far, and why? What city are you most looking forward to visiting and why?
I was excited to come back to Chicago. I also really loved our time in Washington, D.C.
What is one message you would like to give to your fans?
Thank you for sharing The Band’s Visit with me and with our cast. And thank you for continually showing up to various events to see what I’m doing or what our cast is creating.
Visit BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com to find out when The Band’s Visit is headed to your city.